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Asian Studies (Research MA)

About the programme

The two-year research master in Asian Studies equips you with advanced and in-depth knowledge in a region or discipline within the field of Asian Studies.

First year

Throughout the programme, you will, together with students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), participate in two core courses. These include:

  • Critical Area Studies: Placing Your Research – which covers theories and issues central to the field of area studies and examines key writings on the challenges of studying and writing about “other” cultures and societies.
  • Methodology in the Social Sciences and Humanities -  which critically explores the multitude of methodologies in the Social Sciences and Humanities.

In addition to the core courses you will choose core elective and elective courses specific to either Asian Studies or Middle Eastern Studies. You can also combine courses from each of these two master's programmes, from other (Research) MA programmes and/or courses from national Research Schools.

To assist you in making your choices, you are coupled with a “consultant”, one of the professors involved in the programme who (preferably) works on a topic of interest to you during the first weeks of their study. Together with your “consultant” you composes a programme which caters to your immediate and future interest.

Second year

You are expected to spend the third semester of the programme abroad doing fieldwork and/or studying at an affiliated institution.

After your return from Fieldwork or Study Abroad, your work on your MA-Thesis. The process of writing is supported by a “Thesis Seminar” which is obligatory and offered bi-weekly. During this seminar, you discuss relevant issues with your peers and present your research and writings to them, to your supervisor and the convenor of the seminar.

We also offer a one-year and another two-years Asian Studies programme.

Apart from the contents, there can be other arguments to choose for either a master’s or a research master’s programme. Have a look at the table in pdf for a quick overview of the differences. For more details on the contents, also visit the master’s in Asian Studies' (60 EC) and master’s in Asian Studies (120 EC) pages. 

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Self-study
  • Internship options
  • Thesis
  • Exams
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, reports and final thesis
  • Oral presentations

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, see the Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Jonathan Silk

Professor of Buddhist Studies

Jonathan Silk

“Leiden University has incredible strengths – it is possible, for instance, to study Buddhism across the whole of Asia.”

Access to famous libraries

"The library of our Kern Institute, the national centre of expertise for South Asia and the Himalayan region, is famous around the world for its excellent resources on South Asia and Tibet, while the library at the Sinological Institute is second to none in Europe for the depth and breadth of its collections."

Reading Buddhist texts

"I teach introductory courses on Buddhism, and advanced thematic seminars on various topics. And of course, I always love to read Buddhist texts with students in their original languages as well as in translation. The study of Buddhism should be a dynamic synthesis of factual knowledge and critical perspectives, and the Leiden master’s programme offers students just this approach."

Mirjam de Baar


Mirjam de Baar

“Time has taught us that solutions to social problems do not lie in technology, but in human potential. Technological solutions are essential, but so is the significance people attribute to this information through culture or language. Experience shows us that research within the humanities and social sciences often provides these solutions. This is why the research conducted by our humanities faculty is so highly relevant and important. I am very proud of the fact that Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities is one of the world’s leading faculties in the field.”

Broad and relevant research:

“One of this faculty’s strengths is how incredibly broad it is. We conduct a wealth of relevant research in so many different fields and disciplines. We have egyptologists working on excavation sites in Saqqara and the Dakhla Oasis. We have linguists who are documenting, for the first time, languages that are spoken by vast numbers of people in the world today; others creating computer simulations of language acquisition by the brain. The extent and variety of the activity going on is tremendous.”

A stimulating environment

“When you join Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities you are joining a community of passionate, stimulated and ambitious students and staff from all over the world. Our academic environment is known for being conducive to interaction between individuals of all standing: at Leiden even the most junior researcher is treated as a valuable member of the community with important opinions to share. You also gain access to truly unique resources found nowhere else in the world, such as our famous collections at the University Library. Our lecturers and support staff are committed to your success, both now and in the future, and offer you the tools needed to develop into a critically-minded professional who can truly make a difference to the world.”

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