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 Master of one year and moves beyond simplifications and stereotypes of Asian societies. The Master explores inside understandings of Asia through state-of-the-art theories and lectures, an inter-Asian comparative approach and the explicit inclusion of Asian viewpoints.

The programme’s approach is personal and all courses are given by excellent and committed lecturers of high academic standing. As a result, this Master and its courses have been evaluated very highly.

During the programme, students will focus on all the main regions of Asia, but specialise on one region or theme of interest.

The small group size will enable a tailor made study trajectory culminating in individual fieldwork and a thesis.

Academically, its approach stresses the key drivers of local and global changes in Asian Societies, the importance of looking at interconnections from a social science perspective within the Asian region and between Asian societies and other parts of the world. The study programme closely links to the Moving Matters (MoMat) research programme which studies the flow of people, goods, power and ideas.

Academic social science research on Asian societies, identifying the key drivers of local and global change, is becoming increasingly important, not only in terms of its theoretical and practical relevance but also from a social perspective.

Key questions are how to understand, in a rigorous academic manner, the many important issues that dominate today's news, whether they be

  • China's and India's economic transformation,
  • political and religious change in countries like Thailand, China, Cambodia and Indonesia,
  • cultural change in Korea or Japan,
  • or inter-Asian migration flows between Burma, Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore;

and how to study and understand not only the (social and political consequences of) southeast Asian political and economic integration, the reach of Asian companies in Africa, Europe and Latin America, and the rise of alternative Asian political models of governance, but also the negative consequences of economic growth, such as environmental degradation, growing inequality, deforestation, persisting poverty, the rise of new political and social movements, food cultures, commodity chains, high-skilled and low-skilled migration and the spread of Asian popular culture?

During lectures and Asia Updates and in discussions and debates in small groups new insights will be provided and social science perspectives on these topics will be explored, explained and applied.

During individual literature study, essay writing and field research, students can specialise and delve deeper in one or more of these issues. Throughout the programme, the importance of contemporary social science theories and debates on transnationalism, citizenship, culture, religion, development, resource conflicts, economic restructuration, mobility, etc. for understanding contemporary Asia, both in and beyond Asia, will become clear. 


The main objective of the programme is to meet a growing demand for social scientific knowledge and expertise in different areas concerning Asian societies and Asia related issues elsewhere. 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 you 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.

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 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.

Special Asia Updates, seminars on trends and hot issues in Asia today, are part of the curriculum. Guest lecturers (e.g. academics, entrepreneurs, publicists and filmmakers) present their findings from current or recent (field) research and/or experience.

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