Universiteit Leiden

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Asian Studies (MA)

About the programme

Asian studies at Leiden University is unparalleled in the Netherlands and combines the very best of Asia-related research in North-West Europe.

At Leiden Univerisity, you can tailor your MA in Asian Studies with a specialisation that reflects your area of interest. Different specialisations cater for students with or without proficiency in one or more Asian languages, and range from one to two years in duration. This structure allows us to accommodate students with diverse undergraduate backgrounds, objectives and expectations.

When choosing your specialisation consider the following:

The specialisations Chinese StudiesJapanese Studies, and Korean Studies are two years in duration and offer the possibility of an in-depth analysis of one country in East Asia. They each require advanced proficiency in the relevant language.

All three programmes require the completion of a bachelor’s degree in Chinese studies, Japanese studies or Korean studies, depending on the programme. Disciplinary specialisation is at the core of each, and involves the development of fluent classical or modern language skills. You will spend a year at a university in the relevant country, and write an MA thesis. Places in these specialisations are limited.

The specialisation East Asian Studies is a one-year programme that offers the possibility of in-depth analysis of one country in East Asia, either China, Japan, or Korea, in fields such as history, sociology, philosophy, economics, linguistics, politics and international relations.

Advanced knowledge of an East Asian language is required. The programme is similar to that of the related two-year specialisations, but with the advantage of allowing you to choose from a broader range of elective courses, including those on other Asian regions or countries outside the area of your specialisation, and also provides options for internships of two or three months.

The specialisations History, Arts and Culture of Asia, and Politics, Society and Economy of Asia are one-year specialisations that take a thematic approach to Asian Studies. Knowledge of a relevant language is not required, although you have the option of learning one of the many Asian languages taught at Leiden University.

History, Arts and Culture of Asia takes a humanities approach to pre-modern, modern or contemporary Asia. Politics, Society and Economy of Asia takes a social sciences approach to modern or contemporary Asia. You are free to choose a specific region or to cover all Asian regions.

The specialisations South Asia and Southeast Asia are one year in duration and focus on a particular region. Knowledge of a relevant language is not required, although some individual courses require knowledge of a classical or modern South or Southeast Asian language. Students have the option of learning one of the many Asian languages taught at Leiden University.

South Asian Studies  focuses on pre-modern, modern or contemporary South Asia, in fields such as history, literature or religious studies. The focus of the programme is on India and Sri Lanka. Southeast Asian Studies focuses on one or more aspects of Southeast Asia, such as history, literature or religious studies.

The objective of the master's in Asian Studies is to equip ambitious students with the essential knowledge and skills to pursue a successful career in their chosen profession.

The development of in-depth knowledge and the ability to think critically and analytically are key goals of this programme. Opportunities are provided for students to broaden their world experience, develop fluency in a language, and gain professional skills in preparation for entering the job market.

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

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, please check the programme pages of each of the specialisations. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Ethan Mark

Senior University Lecturer

Ethan Mark

“I try to encourage my students to think critically by pushing them to interrogate the categories through which we think and by which we describe the world: where they came from, what forces constructed them, and for what purposes.”

“In a world in which we are so often confronted with the appearance of essential differences, I seek to stimulate an awareness of the interconnectedness of our identities and our histories, informed by an awareness of history itself not as a single narrative of objective facts, but as a field of ongoing contest between competing narratives and competing political agendas.”

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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