Program Description

The Master of Arts in South Asia Studies at Columbia University

The MA in South Asia Studies offers students an interdisciplinary curriculum that may be tailored to their individual interests over one or two years of study. The curriculum combines core seminars with a specialization (at least four courses) in an area of focus chosen by the student, and electives in an array of fields across Columbia University.

Students, working with the MA Director, may shape an area of focus on a topic (Gender, Sustainabilty, Visual Culture, etc.), country or region, discipline, or historical period according to their individual research interests, or to build a broad knowledge of South Asia across multiple disciplines as a foundation for future graduate study.  Courses are often interdisciplinary in nature, although they may be offered in disciplinary departments such as the Departments of Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literature,  History, Music, Political Science, Religion, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; or the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.  The program offers the opportunity to develop a specialization that includes courses in one of Columbia’s professional schools, including the Schools of Climate,   International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Journalism, Law, and Public Health.

The MA curriculum includes the required core course, “Introduction to the Study of South Asia,” which will introduce students to key issues in the study of South Asia across several disciplines; a minimum of four electives in the student’s chosen specialization; a minimum of three to four additional South Asia-related courses in any discipline; and the capstone thesis course, where the student completes a master's thesis in consultation with an advisor from the student's field of specialization.  The Columbia Global Center in Mumbai provides logistical support for students wishing to do internships and summer research in India.  

Students may choose to pursue extensive study in a South Asian language.  The university offers language instruction in Bengali, Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu.  Sinhala is available through the "Shared Courses" initiative, live-streamed from Cornell, via interactive classrooms located in both sites. Students opting to develop their language skills, including those intending eventually to pursue a PhD, may take additional language coursework and usually choose to complete the MA in three to four semesters.  Students may study language from the Elementary to the Advanced level, but only Advanced level language courses earn credit toward the M.A. degree. 

A list of recent master's theses shows the variety of topics and disciplines that students have chosen to pursue within the context of the South Asia Studies M.A.

Recent graduates of our MA program have been accepted to competitive doctoral programs at Columbia, Cornell, McGill, NYU, and the University of Cambridge.  Graduates of the MA program are working in the fields of Journalism, Law, and the non-profit and NGO sectors.  (See Career Outcomes and Alumni Spotlight pages.)

FLAS Fellowships and partial scholarships are available for MA students on a competitive basis.  For further information, see the Financial Aid webpage.  FLAS fellowships for incoming Fall students provide full tuition.

The MA Program is administered by the South Asia Institute at Columbia, one of eight National Resource Centers (NRC) authorized by the U.S. Department of Education.  As an NRC, the Institute awards Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships in a university-wide competition for students studying in the Fall and Spring terms, and in a separate Summer competition, for students who will pursue intensive summer language programs in the U.S. and abroad.  The Institute sponsors an annual colloquium series of lectures, seminars, panel discussions, conferences, film screenings, and other events, to bring outstanding scholars from outside Columbia to the campus.  The Columbia Libraries, one of the largest university libraries in the U.S., houses an extensive collection of South Asia materials, both in English and in South Asia languages. 

Contact the MA Program in South Asia Studies

For additional information and questions about the Master of Arts in South Asia Studies, please contact Professor Quinn Clark, at

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