MA Program

Masters in Southeast Asia

One of the oldest and largest programs devoted to the study of this region in the U.S., the Center is devoted to the study of Southeast Asian languages, peoples and cultures, including their histories, arts, contemporary societies, politics and development. Nearly forty Southeast Asia specialists teach, pursue research and supervise students in the University's various departments and professional schools. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies awards a master's degree for studies concentrating on Southeast 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 Southeast Asian Studies, which provides a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue and intensive interaction among MA students and leading Southeast Asia faculty.

Area Course Work

  • A minimum of 25 semester hours of graduate level course work selected from courses offered in the Southeast 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 25 hours of area course work must include SEAS 501, Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies.  In addition, SEAS 502, Southeast Asian Studies Research Prospectus which will help the student develop their research ideas for the master’s essay is taken the semester after SEAS 501.
  • 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 25 credits.



  • The language requirement may be fulfilled by taking the intermediate level course in a Southeast 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 SEAS 798 during the semester that the thesis is completed for 1-6 credits.  These credits DO NOT count toward the area total of 25.  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.


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

MA Admission FAQ

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 CSEAS, 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 Southeast 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.




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 CSEAS 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 CSEAS and a professional school, but am denied by the professional school, can I still pursue an MA at CSEAS?

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 CSEAS 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 CSEAS?

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 CSEAS. Be sure to have this approved by the CSEAS 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 Southeast Asian studies?

A: While a practical application of your studies is encouraged, we currently do not have any internships set up with Southeast 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 following 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 opportunities:


Q: What funding is available for international students?

A: Our Center unfortunately does not provide any funding for international students. For possible funding opportunities eligible to international students, visit the following web site:


Student Interest/Background


Q: I have a specific area of interest in the Southeast 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 helpful. You can also pursue your interest through your thesis.


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

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


Distance Learning 


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

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