South Asia Regional Studies, PhD

South Asia Studies is an interdisciplinary field focusing on the history, languages, society, literature, and art from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bhutan. America's oldest and most distinguished South Asia program, faculty work in multiple disciplines and offer study in nearly 15 South Asian languages.

The Department of South Asia Studies (SAST) offers PhD and MA degrees, attracting exceptional students from around the world. Candidates for the PhD develop a deep familiarity with the history, methodology, and practice of a chosen discipline relevant to the study of South Asia, and a broad knowledge of allied disciplines. Additionally, our PhD candidates will show a demonstrable proficiency in at least two relevant research languages as detailed in the department requirements.

In addition to the completion of coursework and language requirements, PhD candidates are expected to act as Teaching Assistants and/or teach their own classes. PhD candidates, through the course of their time in the department, are expected to make two presentations to the South Asia Colloquium and to successfully pass their Qualifying and Candidacy Exams. 

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Curriculum

A minimum of 20 course units are required at the 400 level or above. A minimum of 12 course units must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania.

Core Requirements
Disciplinary/content courses
Select 10 course units (including at least 6 content courses taught by 6 different SAST standing faculty) 1
Advanced Language Requirement
Select 4 advanced-level courses in a language of concentration
Intermediate Language Requirement
Select 2 intermediate-level courses in a research language 2
Electives
Select 3 course units
Dissertation Proposal Preparation
Teaching Requirements
1

At least six content courses (not including language courses and independent studies) must be taken with six different Standing Faculty of the South Asia Studies department in the first two years.

2

Candidates who demonstrate advanced knowledge in their language of concentration and/or Advanced knowledge of a second research language may be excused from part of these requirements. Candidates who satisfy language requirements at the South Asia Language Institute or other summer courses, or in advanced language programs abroad may likewise be excused from taking additional language courses. Any CUs not required for language study may be reallocated to electives. The exemption from further language study does not result in a reduction of the total number of 20 CUs required for the degree.


The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2018 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.

Sample Plan of Study

Year 1
Complete at least one language requirement
Fall
Select 4 courses
Spring
Select 4 courses
Summer
Language study (depending on prior language competencies)
Year 2
Complete remaining language requirements
Fall
Select 3 courses
Teaching Assistantship
Spring
Select 3 courses
Teaching Assistantship
Dissertation proposal writing and grant writing
PhD Qualifying Exam
Application for PhD Candidacy
Summer
Preliminary PhD research
Language study (if necessary)
First PhD research grant applications are due
Year 3
*Optional one-year abroad language study as needed
Fall
Select 3 courses
Teaching Assistantship
Complete PhD research grant applications
Bibliography preparation for PhD Candidacy Exams
Spring
Select 3 courses
Teaching Assistantship
Reading for PhD Candidacy Exams 1
PhD Candidacy Exams
Summer
Years 4 and Beyond
Dissertation research and writing
1

May register for Exam Prep in lieu of one course.