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MA Program

Master's Program in South Asian Studies

The Center for South Asian Studies awards a master's degree for studies concentrating on South Asia. The MA Program provides students with a broad interdisciplinary approach to these studies while allowing the flexibility to pursue individual areas of interest. One feature of the MA Program is a required one semester interdisciplinary graduate course in South Asian Studies, which provides a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue and intensive interaction among MA students and leading South Asia faculty. Courses must be taken in at least three different disciplines, and the requirements include a Master’s Essay on a topic of the student’s choosing.


Why Study South Asia at Michigan?

World Class Faculty

Over 40 faculty dedicated to research, scholarship and professional activities in South Asia, with expertise in all the South Asian countries.

Excellent Resources

With more than 300,000 titles in various formats (including 70,000 monographs and 1500 current serials), the South Asia Collection at the University of Michigan Library is among the world’s richest. In addition, the University Museum maintains several world-renowned collections of South Asian materials. Our students also enjoy access to the University of Michigan’s language Resource Center and training in a diverse array of South Asian languages. In addition to those regularly offered by the Center for South Asian Studies, students and faculty regularly participate in the events and programs offered by the many other international centers and programs supported by the International Institute at the University of Michigan.

Strong Connections

Over the years our faculty and students have developed strong relationships with South Asian governments and Non-Government-Organizations (NGOs), businesses, universities, and research institutions. Our students enjoy access to these groups through summer internships, fellowships for research and study abroad, and regular opportunities to interact with visiting scholars and officials in the Center’s scholarly lecture series and public outreach programming. Our alumni enjoy exciting careers in government, business, academia, and the professions.

Amazing Classmates

Our students are second to none, and come from a range of diverse backgrounds and life experiences. They regularly win competitive national fellowships, and are actively in scholarly venues, public service, and both local and international political organizations.

Who Should Apply?

Students with area expertise who want to channel their experiences into a more formal direction, acquire further language competence, and interact with other specialists in an interdisciplinary milieu

Students interested in augmenting their professional training (in Business, Public Policy, Law, etc.) with a rigorous grounding in South Asian languages and knowledge

Students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree with a South Asia focus who wish to develop their language skills and area expertise prior to applying to a PhD program

How to Apply

CSAS coordinates admissions with Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Please consult their information for prospective students.

The application deadline is January 15. The application and all supporting materials (Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, CV, transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores) must be received by this date.

There are some elements of the application you will need to submit to Rackham, and others to the Center. (See steps and instructions, below).

Send all official transcripts from degree granting institutions to:

Rackham Graduate School
Attn: Transcripts
915 E. Washington Street
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1070

Please note
  • Statement of Purpose: A concise, well-written statement about your academic and research background, your career goals, and how Michigan's SAS program will help you meet your career and educational objectives.
  • Personal Statement: A concise, well-written statement about how your personal background and life experiences, including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is not an Academic Statement of Purpose, but a discussion of the personal journey that has led to your decision to seek a graduate degree in SAS.
  • Three letters of recommendation using the forms included with the application are required. These should be from academic sources if possible. (If you submit these online, you do not need to send hard copies to the Center directly.)
  • Academic writing sample in English.  Maximum 20 pages.
Please send a copy of official transcripts from all post secondary institutions to

Center for South Asian Studies
ATTN: Graduate Admissions
Suite 3603 SSWB
University of Michigan
1080 South University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106

If you are applying for a dual-degree program, you must also complete an application for the other school. Please note in both applications that you are applying for a dual-degree program.

All US citizens applying to the MA Program should also apply for FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) fellowships.

FLAS application for MA applicants

Your MA application materials will be used to accompany your FLAS application as well, so you do not need to submit extra copies of your transcripts, TEST scores, Statement of Purpose, and Recommendation letters for consideration in the FLAS competition.

  • Please visit the FLAS site for detailed FLAS information and access to the online application.
  • If you have taken language study in the past, you should fill out the Language Report Form. Have an instructor fill out the remainder of the form, and enclose a recommendation letter.

Contact us with questions about FLAS.

Area Course Work Requirements

A minimum of 24 semester hours of graduate level course work selected from courses offered in the South Asian Studies program, distributed in at least three disciplines such as Asian Languages and Cultures, History, Anthropology, Political Science, Religion, Music, Sociology.

In most departments, courses numbered 400 or above carry graduate credit.  The student is responsible for verifying this with each department.

The 24 hours of area course work must include SAS 501, Introduction to South Asian Studies.  This is typically offered each fall term.

At least four of the courses (12 credits) used to meet the credit requirements must be at 500 level or above, and one of the courses must include substantial writing (usually 600 level). Only one non language independent study course may be taken as part of the 24 credits.


The language requirement may be fulfilled by taking the intermediate level course in a South Asian language or by demonstrating competency via a placement exam.

Credits earned in advanced language courses (400 level) are graduate credits and may be counted toward the area course work requirement. Courses below the 400 level will not count.

Master's Essay

A substantial research paper approved by two faculty members is required and is the product of an individual research project and should achieve the quality of a publishable academic article.  The research and writing is done under the supervision of a faculty member that the student has developed a relationship with and is the primary reader. One other faculty member is chosen and serves as the secondary reader. The student will work with both the primary and secondary reader and each must approve the final work.  The primary reader issues the final grade.

The student will enroll in SAS 798 during the semester that the thesis is completed for 1-6 credits.  These credits DO NOT count toward the area total of 24.  The number of credits is determined in consultation with the essay advisor.  The length of the essay should be determined by the student’s advisor, typically a minimum of 30 pages is required.

Frequently Asked Questions

Letters of Recommendation

Q:  My university offers a recommendation service using a common recommendation form.  Do you accept that, or do you require the specific Rackham form?

A:  Yes, we will accept your university's common recommendations, however you may want to compare our forms to theirs and make sure that they are quite similar. Our admissions committee likes to see answers to the specific questions on the U-M recommendation form in order to evaluate all applicants equally.

Q: Can I see the letter my recommender wrote on my behalf?

A: You may, unless you have waived access (see recommendation form for verification).

Q: My recommender can't send an official letter on time. What should I do?

A: They can fax or email a copy of the letter to CSAS, as long as it is followed by an official letter in the mail.

Statement of Purpose/ Writing Sample/Resume

Q: Do I need to include a writing sample or resume?

A: We require a writing sample which should be an academic sample of your work such as a research paper or thesis.  This should be no more than 20 pages double spaced in length. A current resume is required which should include a full academic background.

Q: What should my Statement of Purpose be about? How long should it be?

A: The Statement of Purpose is generally one to two pages long. It should discuss why you want to pursue South Asian studies, and how it fits into your plans for the future. 

GRE/GPA Scores

Q: What is the minimum GRE and GPA score required?

A: There is no specific minimum, your test scores and GPA are one component of the entire application.

Q: I just took the GRE's last month, and probably won't get the official scores to you on time - is this a problem?

A: No, it should not be a problem. Be sure to report your unofficial scores on the application, and we will attempt to verify them through the electronic reporting system. If verification cannot be obtained before the Admissions Committee makes its decisions, your admission will be conditional pending that confirmation.

Q: Do you accept LSAT or GMAT test scores?

A: Yes, if you are applying for a dual degree program.

 Q: Can you tell me how my GPA and GRE scores rank in comparison with other applicants?

A: No, we cannot give information concerning other applicants.

Q: I took the GRE and had my scores sent to another department at UM. Do I need to send another official copy to CSAS?

A: No, we do not need another official copy- we can access the scores from our electronic system, however if you can send a copy of your scores for your records, it would be helpful.

General Questions

Q: When will I know the results of my application?

A: For a January 15 application deadline, you should know in early March.

Q: I missed the deadline - can I still apply for the program?

A:  While we do not offer extensions to the deadline, you do have the option of submitting your complete application along with a letter explaining why you were unable to meet the deadline. It is then up to the Admissions Committee to determine whether or not they are willing to accept your application. 

Q: Is there a quota of applicants that CSAS admits each year?

A: There is no predetermined quota for admission to the Center MA program- all applicants who are determined to be qualified will be accepted.

Q: I am missing a piece of my application and cannot submit it in time (such as transcripts or a letter of recommendation). Will my application still be considered?

A: In most cases your application will still be considered, although each portion of the application is important to the reviewers' decision, therefore missing items could affect your chances for admission.

Q: Which part of the application is the most important? High GRE scores? Statement of Purpose? Grades?

A: Each component is important, and all reviewers weight them slightly differently.  Therefore, even if one portion of your application is not stellar, it is the overall picture that counts the most.

Q: If I am accepted to the program, can I defer without having to re-apply?

A: Request for a deferral may be granted for up to one year following the original term of application.  Deferrals are made under carefully prescribed conditions and approvals are relatively few in number. Consideration beyond the one year time frame requires submission of a new application.

Q: I am not sure if my English language skills are good enough for the program. How is this gauged?

A: You must take the TOEFL exam, which ranks your English skills. To meet requirements, Rackham has a low-end cut off of 560 for the paper version or a score of 84 for the IBT version. Scores are valid for a period of 2 years.

Dual Degree Programs

Q: If I apply for the dual degree program between CSAS and a professional school, but am denied by the professional school, can I still pursue an MA at CSAS?

A: Absolutely.

Q: I would like to apply for a dual degree program. Am I correct in my understanding that I must submit an application, transcripts, etc. to both degree programs?

A: You are correct – consideration for more than one graduate program requires separate applications and separate application fees.

Q: I am interested in creating a personalized dual-degree program with CSAS and another department. Can I do that?

A: In theory, yes, with another Rackham-based unit. Once you are admitted to one program and have completed at least one term of study, you may request to initiate a dual degree program, however standard admission procedures apply to the second program. See the Rackham Graduate Student Handbook for more specifics.

Study Abroad/ Internship Opportunities

Q: Can I study abroad while pursuing an MA with CSAS?

A: There are no official study abroad opportunities for graduate students, although some students study at an accredited institution and transfer up to six credits toward their program at CSAS. Be sure to have this approved by the CSAS MA advisor in advance. See Rackham Graduate Student Handbook for more details on transferring credit.

Q: What sort of resources and emphasis do you have/place on internships, on a practical application of South Asian studies?

A: While a practical application of your studies is encouraged, we currently do not have any internships set up with South Asia-related organizations. Our faculty might be of assistance in referring students to potential opportunities.

Funding for Students

Q: What funding is available for students?

A: While Center funding is extremely limited, applicants who are U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents should apply for the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship.  The fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is contingent upon funding being renewed each year. Please access the FLAS website for the FLAS information packet and application.

Prospective students should also access the Rackham School of Graduate Studies funding website for other possible funding opportunitiess.

Q: What funding is available for international students?

A: Our Center unfortunately does not provide any funding for international students. Check here for possible funding opportunities eligible to international students.

Student Interest/Background

Q: I have a specific area of interest in the South Asia region. Will I have an opportunity to focus specifically on that?

A: Yes- beyond your required core classes, you have the freedom of electing additional classes from an approved list, and this flexibility should allow you to focus on a specific topic. The MA Advisor should be able to suggest specific courses/ faculty members that would be most helpfulYou can also pursue your interest through your thesis.

Q: My undergraduate major was unrelated to South Asian studies. Will this hurt my chances of admission?

A: It is not at all a disadvantage to have no background in South Asian studies or language of the region. Our MA program is interdisciplinary in nature, therefore South Asia expertise in a variety of disciplines is encouraged.

Distance Learning

Q: I am very interested in South Asian studies through distance learning. Is this possible?

A: Unfortunately, no. All courses are offered at the U-M Ann Arbor campus only.

See also:  Dual Degree Programs.