Master Contemporary Asian Studies

Contemporary Asian Studies is a one-year Master’s programme with a focus on mobility, youth and conflict in Asia. The programme offers insight into contemporary social science theories and cutting edge intellectual debates that help us understand key issues in today’s Asia. The programme considers Asia not as a geographically defined region with fixed boundaries, but as a dynamic and contested historical construct in flux. Contemporary Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary programme taught by lecturers with backgrounds in cultural and social anthropology, sociology, human geography, history, and Asian studies.

Programme outline

The Master's in Contemporary Asian Studies starts in September. It offers the opportunity to choose one of three thematic specialisations that reflects your area of interest. In addition to foundational and specialisation courses, students design and conduct independent field research in Asia and beyond, leading to the Master’s thesis.

The programme consists of the following components:

•    2 foundational courses on theory and methodology
•    2 specialisation courses (electives)  
•    small specialisation tutor groups
•    12-week field research 
•    individual supervision sessions 
•    thesis seminar

Research Project and Thesis

The research project consists of a 12 week period of research in Asia (15 ECTS) followed by the writing of a Master's thesis (15 ECTS). The thesis must reflect a thorough understanding of the theories relevant to the thesis topic and be based on original empirical research. Students wishing to do literature research or conduct fieldwork on Asia related issues in other locations can also be accommodated. The research project is carried out by the student under the personal supervision of a staff member, chosen in consultation with the student. The subject of the thesis is to be mutually agreed upon by the student, supervisor and the fieldwork coordinator.

Degree requirements

The title of MSc in Contemporary Asian Studies is awarded upon completion of 60 ECTS, including all required courses in the curriculum and a written Master's thesis, which is based on an independent research project.

Detailed course information

The complete description of all courses in this programme can be found in the online UvA Course Catalogue.


The programme offers the  following three thematic specialisations:

Mobility, Migration & Security

Mobility, Migration, and Security investigates the political, economic, and legal implications of trans-border movements in and related to Asia. It introduces literature and debates on migrating people, moving commodities, security regimes, shifting networks of solidarity, remittances, and flows of knowledge, meaning, and power.

Youth, Media & Popular Culture

This specialisation introduces students to key social science literature in the study of youth, as well as related literature on media and popular culture. It views youths as the vanguard of creative fields like gaming, fashion and music, and important political actors who creatively and innovatively use social and other media to gain popular support and global attention.

Capitalism, Conflict & Development

Capitalism, Conflict and Development focuses on understanding contemporary social-economic transformations and the impact on the lives of ordinary people. It analyses trends in global capitalism in relation to the rise of Asia. Key aspects are the changing context of international enterprise, global trade, resource conflicts, labour organizing and protest, environmental challenges, and livelihood struggles.


The main objective of the programme is to meet a growing demand for social scientific knowledge of Asian societies and locations where interactions with Asia occur.

This programme advances students’ knowledge of Asian societies, analytical competencies, research skills, and abilities to communicate findings and arguments in a clear, measured and convincing manner.

Field research

The Master's in Contemporary Asian Studies offers the opportunity to design and conduct independent field research in Asia and beyond, leading to the Master’s thesis. It encourages intensive fieldwork abroad for a period of 12 weeks. It is possible to conduct field research in the context of current research projects by the programme's staff. In 2015, the programme successfully completed a pilot for an academic professional track. Students that follow this track can conduct research during an internship with a (non) governmental organisation, a (government) institution, an agency or a business. For inquiries about the academic professional track, please contact the  programme director.

Small group size

The programme is structured around small tutorial groups, in which students get the opportunity to add their own content by coordinating mini-conferences, inviting guest lecturers, or organizing small field trips. Our teaching facilitates critical thinking and cultivates skills for analysing some of the most pressing and controversial issues in a globalized world.

Student profile

Students are expected to have a strong academic background in one of the social sciences or humanities. Applicants with a Bachelor’s degree from a university of applied sciences (HBO) or an academic university may be eligible for an individual preparatory programme if the Bachelor’s degree is  within a relevant social science or regional specialisation. Please contact the programme coordinator for more information.

Students with a background in business studies, language or a related discipline are also welcome to submit an online application. [See how to apply for further details].

This programme is designed for students who wish to work for (non-)governmental organizations, (multi-national) companies and humanitarian agencies as well as for students who intend to pursue PhD-research.

Degree certificate

Upon successful completion of Contemporary Asian Studies, students receive a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Contemporary Asian Studies.

Focus on research

Lecturers in this programme are all active researchers, who impart their knowledge on the latest developments in the field of Asian studies to the programme (see staff page). The core staff in the programme lead cutting-edge research projects on different themes in Asia. Insights from these research projects are integrated into courses, and students enjoy the opportunity to conduct their own field research in collaboration with these research projects.

Ambition in a research career?

For students interested in a research career, we also offer a two­ year Research Master’s programme in Social Sciences focusing on the development of a PhD proposal.

Key facts

MSc Contemporary Asian Studies
Regulier onderwijs
60 EC, 12 maanden

Gepubliceerd door  GSSS

Graduate School of Social Sciences