South Asian Studies

Program Category: MA Programs
Director of MA Program: Quinn A. Clark
Email Address: [email protected]

Degree Programs: Full-Time/Part-Time: Free-Standing MA

With a rich and diverse linguistic, cultural, and political history, South Asia has moved to the center of the global stage due to its dramatic economic growth and strategic importance. The MA program in South Asian Studies provides an opportunity to engage with critical issues in a region that includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka in an academic environment that includes many of the most distinguished South Asia Studies faculty in the US.

Students can deepen their knowledge of the cultural, economic, political, and social processes shaping the region. Ideal for both professionals seeking regional knowledge and students intending to pursue a PhD in the future, the South Asia Studies program prepares graduates for careers in government, public policy, non-profit organizations, journalism, education, the private sector, and academia.

The curriculum combines integrative core seminars with the opportunity to take South Asia Studies courses in a variety of disciplines. Core courses address key issues and approaches to South Asia studies. The program includes training in research methodologies and the critical use of scholarship as a foundation for developing the MA thesis. To complement the core curriculum, students choose from a variety of courses offered regularly by South Asia Studies faculty in anthropology, art history, history, international affairs, literature, politics, and religion. Although there is no language requirement for the MA, Columbia offers elementary through advanced levels of training in Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Tibetan, and Urdu.

The institute provides resources and guidance for students to develop both a broad interdisciplinary expertise in South Asia studies and an area of specialization to be chosen by the student across a range of disciplines in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. As a capstone project, the student completes a master's thesis in consultation with an advisor from the student's field of specialization. 

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

The statement of academic purpose allows the university to evaluate your ability to succeed academically and the reasons you wish to undertake the degree. It should describe your academic interests and plans for graduate study at Columbia; mention relevant coursework, professional experience or other activity; and explain clearly the relation of your studies to your plans upon receiving the MA.

The writing sample should be 10 to 15 pages long, preferably a paper that you have written for a course pertaining to the general field of South Asian studies. Alternatively, you may provide a focused essay written in an academic style that examines an article, book, exhibit, or event relevant to your field of interest.

If you have recently received an academic degree or have recent academic experience, letters of recommendation from faculty are preferred. If you have not been enrolled in an academic program in recent years, professional recommendations are acceptable.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the TOEFL or IELTS exams. For more information, refer to the Information for International Students page.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.


FLAS Fellowships are available for students entering in the fall. If you are applying for the FLAS Fellowship you must submit your admission application, including the FLAS essay by the fellowship application deadline.

Incoming MA students who are awarded a FLAS will receive full tuition funding during their initial year of study. For more information about South Asia FLAS, see