Candidates for a degree of Master of Arts are expected to develop a broad knowledge of disciplines relevant to the study of South Asia as well as competency in a South Asian language at an Intermediate-High level equivalent to a minimum of two years of study. The course of study toward the degree of Master of Arts requires a minimum of twelve credit units (CUs). As part of these 12 CUs, students must take:

• 10 CUs in disciplinary courses

• 2 CUs in intermediate-level courses or higher in a South Asian language;*

Note: Courses 400-level and above count for graduate credit.

*Candidates who demonstrate Advanced knowledge of a South Asian language may be excused from taking additional language courses. The CUs may then be reallocated to electives. In no case will exemption from further language study result in a reduction of the total number of 12 CUs required for the degree.

If students elect to write a Master’s Thesis they must produce a piece of original research that  includes sources in South Asian languages. One CU may be used for research connected with the preparation of the optional M.A. Thesis.

The M.A. Final Examination is conducted after all course requirements, including language and, if applicable, thesis requirements, have been satisfied (usually in the second year).  M.A. candidates must demonstrate by written examination a broad knowledge in four areas—history, language and literature, religion, and contemporary perspectives—relevant to the study of South Asia. The examination is based on a bibliography compiled by the department in these four fields. Preparation for the exam should normally entail the completion of coursework in the specified areas. Advisors will assist students in designing a program that allows them the best exposure to the materials on which they will be tested. The Qualifying Examination takes the form of a six-hour closed book exam in which students answer a selection of presented questions from each field. 

In addition, the Provost sets the following requirement for all master's students:

(1) prepare a thesis in the field of the major subject; or

(2) complete a course of research character or engage in supervised research, as the graduate group shall direct, which, in either case, shall be of at least one term in duration and shall include the preparation of at least one comprehensive scholarly or scientific paper.

A thesis or research paper based on joint work with other researchers is allowed, provided that, in such cases, a unique and separate document is presented by each degree candidate. The candidate must include a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work. Authorship of a master’s thesis or research paper by more than one degree candidate is not allowed.

If  the MA student chooses to write a thesis, the student must follow the MA style guidelines and present two printed copies to be deposited in the Graduate Division Office by the date specified in the degree calendar for that term. 

The M.A. final examination may also serve as the doctoral qualifying examination for those who might wish to proceed to a Ph.D. degree.  Neither admission to the M.A. program nor successful completion of the M.A. final examination and/or thesis carries a guarantee or expectation that candidates will be admitted to the Ph.D. program. A separate admission process is required for the Ph.D. program.

Policy on Incompletes: Students are strongly discouraged from taking an Incomplete grade in graduate seminars or graduate level courses. Should a student take an Incomplete grade in a course for unavoidable reasons, the last date by which the student may submit all work for a Fall Semester course will be the first teaching day of the Spring semester; for a Spring semester course, three weeks from the last day of the Spring semester. Failure to submit work beyond this date will result in a loss of a third of a letter grade for each further day's delay. After seven days a permanent C will be given for the course grade. 

NB: In the instance of graduate students being faced with life events or disasters, an Incomplete may be extended, by written permission of both the course instructor and the Graduate Director. In such cases, the student will state in writing the date by which they will submit all work for that course.

Graduate Student Independent Study Policy and Procedures:

Graded independent studies normally involve:

  1. completion of a specific reading or research project
  2. regularly scheduled tutorial sessions with the instructor during the semester
  3. submission of a substantial paper at the end of the term in which the course is taken.

For graduate students who wish to pursue a graded independent study, the procedure is as follows:

  1. When you have a clear idea of the topic you would like to study, you should find a faculty sponsor who can supervise your work. Any member of the standing faculty or South Asia Studies Graduate Group may offer an independent study to a student at the professor's discretion.
  2. When you and your faculty sponsor have decided upon the topic and terms of your independent study, please complete this application and return the following form to Zoe Beckerman in the South Asia Studies Department, 820 Williams Hall.

All application Forms must also include:

  • Syllabus
  • Number of Hours
  • Assignments

Additional Information

  • Independent Studies may be taken for a letter grade ONLY (no Pass/Fail).
  • Independent Study applications must be submitted for approval to Department or Graduate Chair no later than one week BEFORE the end of “add period”.
  • Exceptions may be approved by the South Asia Studies Department Chair.
  • The appropriate Graduate or Undergraduate Chair has discretion to limit the number of independent studies undertaken.