Graduate School of Social Sciences

Master's Contemporary Asian Studies

Degree programme
MSc Contemporary Asian Studies
Regular study programme
60 ECTS, 12 months
Language of instruction
Starts in
CROHO code

Contemporary Asian Studies is an innovative programme with a broad, interdisciplinary, social science character. It offers an intensive one year Master in which you explore the inside understandings of Asia through state-of-the-art theories and lectures. The Master offers an inter-Asian comparative approach and the explicit inclusion of Asian viewpoints.

Social Science research on Asia

The academic approach of the Master emphasizes the key drivers of local and global changes in Asian Societies. From this perspective it’s important to look  at interconnections within the Asian region and between Asian societies and other parts of the world. The study programme is closely linked to the Moving Matters (MoMat) research programme which studies the flow of people, goods, power and ideas.

Academic research on Asia from a social perspective  is becoming increasingly important.  Contemporary social science theories and debates on transnationalism, citizenship, culture, religion, development, resource conflicts, economic restructuration, mobility, and other issues, proof to be important to understand contemporary Asia, both in and beyond Asia. The Master offers the insights and knowledge into these theories and debates in order to explain many important issues that dominate today's news, such as:

  • China's and India's economic transformation;
  • political and religious change in countries like Thailand, China, Cambodia and Indonesia;
  • the reach of Asian companies in Africa, Europe and Latin America;
  • consequences of economic growth, such as environmental degradation, growing inequality, deforestation;
  • the rise of new political and social movements, food cultures, commodity chains, and the spread of Asian popular culture, and;
  • high-skilled and low-skilled migration, (inter-) Asian migration flows .

How to study and understand these issues? This Master focusses on both the understanding of these kind of issues and their social and political consequences. During lectures, Asia Updates (seminars on trends and hot issues in Asia today), discussions and debates new insights are provided and social science perspectives explored, explained and applied.

Regions in Asia

The programme focusses on all the main regions of Asia. Through individual literature study, essay writing and field research students specialise and delve deeper in one region or theme of interest.


The main objective of the programme is to meet a growing demand for social scientific knowledge and expertise in different areas concerning Asian societies both in and beyond Asia. Therefore, this programme consists of courses that focus on contemporary themes as well as on specific regions of Asia.

Field research 

The Master's in Contemporary Asian Studies offers the opportunity to design and conduct independent field research in Asia or elsewhere, leading to the Master’s thesis. It is also possible to conduct field research in the context of current research projects by the programme's staff. In 2015, the programme started with 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 on particulars of this pilot, please contact the  programme director.

Small group size

There are limited places available in this Master. The small group size will enable a tailor made study trajectory culminating in individual fieldwork and a thesis.

Student profile

The Master's programme in Contemporary Asian Studies offers an intensive and comprehensive curriculum. It is important to have a strong academic background, be highly motivated and to be prepared to invest considerable time in your studies. You are expected to develop the ability to work independently as well as in a mixed group of Dutch and international students. This interactive approach will enable you to enrich your learning process and cross­-cultural communication skills.

The programme’s approach is personal and all courses are given by excellent and committed lecturers of high academic standing. 


The programme is designed to ensure that you advance your knowledge on Asian societies, develop analytical competencies, gain experience in conducting practical research in Asia, and learn to communicate your findings and arguments in a clear, measured and convincing manner. 

Focus on research

The lecturers in the Contemporary Asian Studies 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 are leading cutting­ edge research projects on different themes in Asia. Insights from these research projects are integrated into the courses in the programme, and students also enjoy the opportunity to conduct their own field­ research in collaboration with these research projects.

Ambition in a research career? 

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

Degree certificate

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

Published by  GSSS

Graduate School of Social Sciences