Universiteit Leiden

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South and Southeast Asian Studies (BA)

South and Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse areas. Interested in speaking one of the region's major languages, and understanding its history, culture, and current affairs? Then this is the bachelor's programme for you!

South and Southeast Asian Studies at Leiden University

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Why study South and Southeast Asian Studies?

In the South and Southeast Asian Studies programme you gain a thorough understanding of the history, cultures, and politics of a region which is home to almost a third of the world’s population (including half of its Muslims) and to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Development and inequality, ethnic and religious conflict, political and cultural movements, and tensions between modernity and tradition are all addressed in lectures and seminars.

Why South and Southeast Asian Studies at Leiden University?

  • The programme is unique: it is the only bachelor’s in the Netherlands where you can study languages and cultures of the South and Southeast Asian region at an academic level.
  • Language is the key to knowing and understanding a culture. This is why language acquisition is an important part of our programme. You will learn either Hindi, Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Indonesian.
  • There is plenty of room to tailor the programme according to your interests. Besides your language choice, you can choose to specialize either in modern societies or in classical cultures, and between a wide range of courses within each category. In your third year, your choice of BA dissertation topic will be almost unrestricted.
  • You will have access to the world-renowned Asian Library at Leiden University Library, and to other important Asia-related collections and institutions in Leiden.
  • In the third year you will spend a semester studying in South or Southeast Asia. Those studying the Indonesian language will go to Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, students of Hindi to the University of Hyderabad, and those studying Sanskrit or Tibetan to the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Shanté Neese


Shanté Neese

"Radhika Gupta, the professor of 'Nation, Community, Self', always asks us if we have any input about the readings or the lectures. There is always room for discussion, I like that. There is also a kind of personal bond with most professors, like with the Indonesian classes, where everyone knows your name."

Yara van Holten


Yara van Holten

"The South and Southeast Asia Studies programme focuses on other cultures. A lot of attention is given to foreign cultures and how they differ from our own: we are used to many other habits and customs. During my bachelor’s I travelled to Indonesia to work on my language skills and familiarise myself with the culture. This experience taught me a great deal in terms of how to adapt to different cultures, a skill that comes in handy in my current job where I am regularly working with international students and staff."

Is this the programme for you?

In this programme you will gain the academic, language, and practical skills that are needed to research, analyse, understand, and formulate answers to the questions arising, from the dynamic South and Southeast Asian region.

  • Are you fascinated by the history and emerging possibilities of this region?
  • Do you want to specialise in a particular South/Southeast Asian country or area, diving deep into specific issues?
  • Do you want to learn from the top academics and lecturers in the field?
  • Are you looking to broaden your perspectives by studying with international students?

Then South and Southeast Asian Studies is the programme for you! Check out the programme structure

The South and Southeast Asian Studies Online Experience

Want to be sure this is the right study for you? Check out our online experience and find out more. This experience consists of online mini-courses, including a few assignments.
Take the online experience!

Sanskrit wall poem in Leiden

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There are hundreds of writing systems in the world. Some of these are commonly known, like our Latin alphabet, the Arabic script, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. But what do you know about the Devanagari script? Check out Dr. Tijmen Pronk's introduction to the writing system of a poem in Sanskrit. The poem is part of the famous Leiden Wall Poems.

Chat with a student

Do you have a question about studying at leiden University or student life in Leiden? Do you want more information about the South and Southeast Asian Studies programme? Chat with a current student for answers to your questions!

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