Dual Master's in Medical Science

Joining forces to boost the future of medical science: A joint program between the University of Tsukuba and associated universities in Vietnam and Taiwan allows students to gain a prestigious dual master’s qualification

A broad outlook and exposure to first-class facilities are vital for young researchers who want to make their mark in the world of contemporary biomedicine. Providing students with exactly these sorts of opportunities is the goal of the Dual Master’s in Medical Science offered at the University of Tsukuba.

This relatively new venture is operated by the University of Tsukuba in collaboration with three overseas universities; two in Vietnam — Vietnam National University and the University of Medicine and Pharmacy — and the National Taiwan University. The premise behind the program is to offer students the chance to study abroad and focus their skills in the study of medical sciences, earning degrees from two institutions.

“The program was developed to give students with undergraduate degrees the opportunity to develop a broader perspective within a field of medicine,” explains Koji Hisatake, faculty member at the University of Tsukuba’s School of Medicine and Medical Sciences. “In addition, for students from other countries, especially Vietnam, it provides an invaluable experience in conducting cutting-edge research in high-tech facilities that may not be available in their own countries.”

Through their research experience and international perspective, students are expected to devote themselves toward the betterment of society. The universities hope graduates will contribute to the progress of research in the fields of basic medical sciences, clinical medicine and community medicine. The program aims to train experts in various medicine-related fields, such as preventive medicine, occupational medicine, medical welfare, medical engineering and medical administration.

The dual master’s program requires students to study for a minimum of 30 credits. For students from outside Japan, this typically involves earning 10 credits in their own country over the course of a year and 20 credits across two years at the University of Tsukuba. Students at Tsukuba will acquire a master’s degree either in science or in pharmacy in Vietnam or Taiwan. The course is taught in English and covers a wide range of topics including clinical medicine, medical physics, cancer care and community medicine. This variety allows students to focus on an aspect of medical science that suits them, and encourages them to become fully fledged professionals — either working as highly skilled specialists, or as researchers and educators with the aim of improving medical care around the world.

“We have around 200 staff members available to supervise students on the dual master’s program,” explains Hisatake. “Their expertise spans a multitude of medical science fields from molecular biology to genetics and pharmacology. Our students work in laboratories of their choosing in both universities with experts from the field that they are interested in. This means that students can conduct research and experiments in two different labs, which is especially beneficial if the supervisors are also already collaborating in research.”

The ambitious goal of encouraging international collaboration in this interdisciplinary way is what sets the University of Tsukuba’s Dual Master’s in Medical Science apart from courses at other institutions. The first alumna from the program, Pei-Han Tai, completed her dual master’s degree and graduated from National Taiwan University in June 2014.

Hisatake says the dual master’s program has proven to be popular among participants: “Our overseas students are very positive about the benefits of the course. They are able to use facilities in Tsukuba that are not readily available in their own country to complete certain experiments.”

Hisatake and his team are open to the idea of expanding the course to include more universities and are hopeful that new affiliations might be made in the future.

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