Best South Asian Studies Graduate Programs

Jan 28, 2019

Solid options exist for students who would like to pursue a graduate degree in South Asian Studies. This article outlines a few of the best Ph.D. and master's degree programs in greater detail.

Individuals who are interested in the cross-disciplinary field of South Asian studies will find graduate programs at several highly respected schools. Below, prospective students will gain insight into three of the top schools in the country that offer graduate opportunities in South Asian studies, as well as information regarding a few other solid programs.

Columbia University

Columbia University is one of the preeminent research institutions in the country and offers a Master of Arts in South Asia Studies. This two-year program is designed to fit the needs and interests of the student, as the curriculum is very flexible and allows students to select from a wide variety of electives across many of the university's departments. Students are also able to pursue a specialization area within the program, with options like literature, anthropology, political science, or women and gender. The program also encourages students to study a South Asian language while enrolled in the program and offers courses in Punjabi, Sanskrit, and Persian, among others.

In addition to completing the core coursework and selected elective courses within and outside of their specialization area, students must also complete a master's thesis, requiring significant original research. While conducting their research, students can benefit from The South Asia Institute, which administers the M.A. program, and also organizes all the faculty members, resources, and activities that relate to South Asian studies across the campus. Additionally, the libraries at Columbia are home to one of the most extensive and oldest South Asia collections in the United States, both physically and online.

Harvard University

Harvard offers students the opportunity to enroll in a Ph.D. program in South Asian Studies. While this program is multidisciplinary in nature and encourages students to pursue a variety of interest areas within the field, it particularly emphasizes the study of South Asian languages and offers strong coursework in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, as well as Sanskrit and Indian Studies.

This program also requires that students complete coursework during the first two years, with examinations and teaching experience beginning in the third year, when they will also begin preparing for their dissertation. The fifth year and beyond is typically spent researching and writing the dissertation, and students are able to use a travel fellowship provided by the school to fund their travel to a location pertinent to their research. In order to be admitted to this program, students must be able to demonstrate that they have previously completed at least one area of South Asian Studies and may also be required to already have learned a relevant language, depending on their projected field of study.

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is another highly-regarded institution that offers both an M.A. and Ph.D. program is South Asian Studies. The University of Pennsylvania's programs prepare students to either enter careers in research or teaching at other universities around the county, or to bring a high level of South Asian knowledge to another field, like law or business.

Students pursuing an M.A. degree at this school are required to complete courses across a broad spectrum of subfields within the department in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the field, as well as classes in an area of their choosing in order to support their master's thesis. Additionally, all students are required to develop a high level of competency in one of the South Asian languages. Ph.D. students are expected to meet the same requirements, but must develop a higher level of competency in a language, as well as intermediate knowledge in a second language. These students will also be required to complete teaching experience and write a doctoral dissertation.

Additional Top Graduate Degrees in South Asian Studies

  • University of Washington- The University of Washington offers students an M.A. degree in South Asian Studies that is housed within the International Studies department. This program allows students the ability to specialize in a field like international development, migration, human rights, or the environment, among other options.
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa - Another option for students is the M.A. in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This program requires students to concentrate their studies on a particular region, with South Asia being one of the options.
  • University of Chicago - This school offers a Ph.D. in South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

In summary, students who would like to enroll in one of the top South Asian Studies programs in the country have a number of attractive options at the Ph.D. and master's levels. These programs will facilitate an advanced level of study in languages, history, culture, and the arts, among other topics.

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