Master’s Program

The Master’s (MA) program in the Department of Asian Studies offers a thesis-based MA degree to students working in a variety of regions and disciplines.

Before applying, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their prospective supervisor(s) to confirm their availability and interest.

The MA program in Asian Studies encompasses the cultures of South Asia (through the languages of Urdu/Hindi, Persian, Punjabi, and Sanskrit), the Himalayas, and East Asia (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), as well as Islamic Studies. Transregional studies that involve multiple regions or subregions are also welcome. Fields of study include literature, visual and popular culture, linguistics (historical and applied), history, religion, and philosophy.

Admissions to the M.A. program in Asian Studies normally requires a Bachelor of Arts degree in an appropriate field, with strong evidence of competence in relevant Asian languages prior to undertaking the M.A. This is typically achieved through a minimum of four years of language study, with first class standing, or the equivalent. The program can accept a limited number of students who are otherwise well-qualified and show linguistic aptitude but have less than this level of preparation in language. Such students will be required to spend one or two extra years in their M.A. program making up this deficiency.

Those interested in Asia-related modern history, political science, commerce, economics, geography, fine arts, anthropology or sociology, should apply to the department concerned.

Please be advised that late applications are not accepted and the program does not offer January or May admissions.

Candidacy in the M.A. program may be terminated if the degree is not awarded within a period of five years from initial registration. Program extension or on-leave status is possible only in certain exceptional circumstances.

Students’ progress will be reviewed during spring term of each year. A candidate may be required to withdraw if progress has not been satisfactory.

A graduate student’s registration for a second term in a degree program will be blocked until all conditions for admissions to that program have been met.


In the MA Asian Studies program we offer multiple research activities related to Asia. Through collaborative projects, lectures, workshops and professional development opportunities, our students are able to pursue their interests and make connections with scholars around the world.

Most students begin their program at the start of the Winter Session (First Tuesday in September, after Labor Day). Under special circumstances students may be allowed to begin their program in the second term of the Winter Session, that is, in January (after New Year’s Day).

Degree Requirements

Students must complete 30 credits which includes a thesis (12 credits).

When planning for their MA in Asian Studies, students should also consider these guidelines:

Those interested in a Master’s Degree in Asian Studies (MA) must submit an application with the minimum admissions requirements:

  • A Bachelor of Arts degree from an accredited university level institution
  • At least four years of study in a relevant discipline
  • A B+ average in 300 and 400 level courses (for North American Master’s applicants)
  • A B+ overall average for international applicants
  • Reading competence in the language most useful for proposed graduate work

Students with a three-year Bachelor’s Degree from a European institution will be considered on a case-by-case basis for admissions eligibility.

Six credits may be fulfilled by courses at the 300 or 400 level and should be selected in consultation with the supervisor/ Graduate Advisor Note: The combination of thesis and courses numbered 500-599 must total no fewer than 24 credits.

Master’s students must spend at least one Winter Session (September-May) completing coursework on campus. They may not commit to more than 12 hours per week of work/employment, including Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant duties, to matters other than the degree program. Under special circumstances a full-time student may be required to conduct research at some location away from the UBC campus. With the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies, up to a year of this research time may be counted as equivalent to a year of residency in Vancouver.

All current Master’s students must register for the thesis course (ASIA_V 599-B) while writing their thesis. It can be taken in successive terms.

We do not accept part-time students in this Department.

The option of M.A. without thesis is not available in the Department of Asian Studies.

Ideally by the end of the first year of your MA program you will, in consultation with your supervisor, have in mind a clear, researchable thesis topic. You will prepare a proposal to be approved by your supervisory committee (which consists of the supervisor and at least one other member at this point; for purposes of approving the proposal that other member can be the Associate Graduate Advisor). Send the approved proposal to the Associate Graduate Advisor and the Graduate Program Assistant.

The G+PS Handbook of Graduate Supervision describes the thesis as follows: “A master's thesis must demonstrate that the student knows the background and principal works of the research area, and can produce significant scholarly work. It should contain some original contribution whenever possible.” In the case of Asian Studies, this includes use of primary and/or secondary material in appropriate Asian languages.

For more on the purpose and nature of the MA thesis, see

The Proposal: The MA Thesis proposal offers a preliminary description of the proposed argument of the thesis and explains the relation of this argument to existing research on the topic. It also sets out the major steps through which you plan to proceed in researching, writing, and structuring the thesis. In order to be approved by your supervisory committee (supervisor plus one other person, who may be the Associate Graduate Advisor), the proposal will seek to convince readers who are specialists in the proposed research subject, and to explain the proposed research to non-specialist academic readers. The proposal includes a bibliography, a comprehensive list of required primary sources for the research, and a list of the most relevant and most influential (currently and long-term) secondary readings on or around the topic. The text of the proposal, excluding the bibliography, is typically 750–1500 words.

Supervision and Preparation of the Thesis: After the proposal as has been approved, students will initially work with a supervisor and a second committee member with expertise in a relevant field. The kind and amount of thesis supervision will be dictated by the topic, the needs of the individual student, and the preferred methods of the supervisor. Preliminary drafts, either of individual chapters or of the whole thesis, should be submitted to the supervisor as you proceed. You are encouraged to meet regularly with both members of the committee. Before the MA defence can be scheduled, a third committee member must be found, and all three members of the committee must evaluate the thesis draft. When all three members have judged it to be ready to defend, the defence can be scheduled in consultation with the Graduate Program Assistant.

The final form of the thesis must be prepared in accordance with Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies regulations:

NOTE: Students must not submit the thesis for oral examination until all other requirements for the degree have been fulfilled and all grades entered.

Thesis Defense and Submission

MA candidates must complete an oral defense of the thesis. The two-hour defense begins with a brief (15-20 min. max.) presentation of the research by the student during which s/he may read from notes and/or use audio-visual equipment but must not read from a prepared text.

Following this, the three members of the candidate’s supervisory committee (the Research Supervisor and two other committee members) will in turn address questions and make comments regarding the thesis. Each defense will be assigned a faculty Chair (details), who will moderate the question and answer period and oversee the defense.

The student will be asked to leave the room during the deliberation period. The chair will then recall the candidate and, in the presence of the examining committee, inform the candidate that s/he has passed/failed and advise the student that the defense grade will be entered into the student’s record.

For thesis guidelines please click here.

In planning for submission of the thesis and completion of MA graduation requirements, students should keep the following in mind:

1)       Students must apply for graduation early in the term in which they plan to graduate. For example to participate in the May Convocation, s/he must typically apply by the end of February. These deadlines change slightly every year; please click here for precise dates.

2)     Students must have completed all required coursework and have all relevant grades submitted prior to defending their thesis. Please consult with your supervisor and the Graduate Program Assistant to confirm your status, if you have any concerns.

3)     The deadline for the final submission of the thesis is usually 3-4 weeks prior to graduation. Students need to keep this in mind. To graduate in late May, the submission deadline is usually late April. With this in mind, students should plan to schedule their defense in a timely fashion, allowing for any necessary revisions, etc. Deadlines for the current year can be checked here.

4)     At least one month before the desired defense, the student should send an email to the Graduate Program Assistant (and cc-ing their Supervisor and the Associate Graduate Advisor) informing us of the student’s intent to defend. At this point you should submit a Research Supervisory Committee form.

5)     It is up to the student and her/his Supervisor to coordinate how the thesis writing will proceed. However, we recommend that the student give committee members (aside from the Supervisor) at least one month to review the thesis.

6)     It is the responsibility of the student and her/his supervisor to choose a time and date for the defense that works for all committee members. Once this has been set, please send this time/date to the Graduate Program Assistant and Associate Graduate Advisor, who will reserve a room and find a Faculty Chair for the defense.

7)     At least one week before the scheduled defence, the supervisor polls the committee members to confirm that they find the thesis ready for defence. If they have significant concerns or call for substantial revision, the defence may be rescheduled.

8)     The oral defence is chaired by a faculty member who is not a voting member of the committee and attended by all members of the committee (if necessary, remotely through video chat). It begins with a presentation by the student outlining the findings of the thesis (20 minutes maximum; audio-visual equipment may be used). The members of the committee then question the student about the thesis, proceeding from the member the least closely connected to the student’s research topic to the one most closely connected (typically the supervisor). There are typically two rounds questioning, the second often less structured. After the last round of questioning, the student is asked to leave the room and the committee deliberates to determine whether the student has passed or failed and to assign a grade. These decisions are based on both the thesis and the performance in the defence. The student is called back into the room and informed of the pass/fail decision. The student will be notified of the grade later by the Graduate Program Assistant.

9)   If the student passes the defence, they are typically given time to make revisions before submission of the final version; these need to be approved by the supervisor. The formatting of the final version of the thesis must conform to the G&PS thesis preparation guidelines.  In exceptional circumstances, the committee may decide to allow the candidate to re-do the oral defence, for example if there are significant discrepancies between the written thesis and oral defence performance. A re-examination will be granted only upon consultation between the supervisor and Associate Graduate Advisor and must normally be undertaken no more than thirty days after the initial defence.

10)  After the oral exam and necessary revisions, the student needs to submit to Tina Wong a Thesis Approval form along with the Thesis Submission Cover Sheet.  Tina will check the documents and then send them along to G+PS. Only after G+PS has received these documents will you then be able to upload your thesis to cIRcle. It is recommended that the student check formatting of the thesis with G+PS before the final submission. Note that images and long passages of text from copyrighted works may require the permission of the copyright owner; consult the UBC Library well in advance if the thesis contains such material. The thesis becomes available for public access online via the UBC Library.

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