To receive the AM in Regional Studies-East Asia, a student must satisfy the requirements established by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) for all master’s degree candidates as well as those additionally determined by the RSEA Committee.


The RSEA program ordinarily entails two full years in residence. The minimum GSAS requirement for AM candidates is one year of full-time residence at the full-tuition rate. During that time students must follow an RSEA-approved plan of study, consisting of at least eight half-courses that satisfy the basic RSEA course requirements (as defined below); pay the required tuition costs; and maintain satisfactory academic progress by achieving the minimum grade average, a “B” average, in each of the two years of study.

Students who have completed their first year of full-time study in residence and plan to be away from campus for one term or more may apply for non-residence status in one of the three categories: Traveling Scholar Status; Leave of Absence; Registration at Another Harvard School (see below). Before deciding on non-resident status, students should discuss their plans with their faculty advisor and then complete the appropriate application. Applications must be approved and signed by the student’s faculty advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the GSAS Dean’s Office. Normally no more than a single year of program-approved leave is allowed.

  • Traveling Scholar: For students traveling outside the Boston area who are primarily engaged in degree-related work.
  • Leave of Absence (LOA): For students who devote their time to non-degree-work-related activities, including maternity/paternity leave, documented medical reasons, military service, and family disruption.
  • Registration at Another Harvard School: For students who will be registered and studying full-time at another Harvard school.

Additional information and application forms for non-residence status are available on the GSAS website. Students should read the GSAS policy about non-residence status carefully.

Academic Requirements

The program is designed to be flexible, and to allow students the opportunity to pursue their own particular East Asia-related interests, whether wide-ranging or relatively focused, within the guidelines of the RSEA requirements. In the normal two-year program of study, students take a total of sixteen half-courses. Some students may choose to take some of their courses in subjects related to their academic interests but outside the East Asian studies field — perhaps to pursue the theoretical background of a discipline, provide a comparative framework for study, or develop necessary methodological skills. All students, however, must graduate with at least eight RSEA-approved half-courses. These courses must meet the following conditions:

  • All courses must receive a minimum grade of B- or better.
  • At least six courses used to fulfill RSEA course requirements must be FAS courses. RSEA students are free, within GSAS guidelines, to take up to two courses per term (no more than half their enrollment) through cross-registration at other Harvard schools or allied programs; however, in the course of their study they must ensure that at least six of their courses are FAS courses.
  • At least six courses used to count toward RSEA course requirements must be courses on East Asian topics, as indicated by course descriptions or approved by the RSEA Committee. Ordinarily language courses may not be used to meet the six East Asian course requirements.
  • Only one course graded SAT/UNSAT may be used to fulfill RSEA course requirements.
  • Only one RSEA 300 course may be used to fulfill RSEA course requirements.

Students should consult their faculty advisors and the RSEA Director of Graduate Studies regarding their proposed course of study. A student’s faculty advisor must approve any exception to these course requirements. A petition, written by the student and signed by the student’s faculty advisor, should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Students and the Chair for approval.

Language Requirement

In order to satisfy the RSEA language requirement, students must either satisfactorily complete at least a third-year East Asian language course at Harvard, or demonstrate the equivalent proficiency through the language placement tests administered by the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) before the beginning of classes each fall. With the exception of native speakers of an East Asian language, all students entering the RSEA program with some East Asian language background who have not previously taken language courses at Harvard are required to take these placement tests. These tests are designed to assist the staffs of the language programs in placing students in the most appropriate level courses or, in the case of students who qualify to take courses at the fourth-year level or above, to enable students to demonstrate fulfillment of the RSEA language requirement.

Native speakers of an East Asian language are exempt from the requirement to demonstrate proficiency, except in cases where the language of academic focus is not the student’s native language (e.g., a native speaker of Japanese whose academic field is in Chinese studies should take the Chinese language placement test).

Literary/Classical language cannot be used to fulfill the language requirements.

Thesis Requirement

  • The thesis should be composed under the guidance of and in close consultation with the student’s faculty advisor and/or thesis advisor.
  • The thesis should demonstrate original research and/or a fresh interpretation of a subject.
  • The thesis should demonstrate significant use of primary sources in one (or more) East Asian language(s).
  • The thesis should demonstrate the candidate’s familiarity with previous scholarship related to the subject matter.
  • The body of text (i.e. excluding bibliography and other supplementary materials) is expected to be sixty to eighty pages in length (excluding footnotes, using Times New Roman font size 12, and double spacing) or a length deemed appropriate by the student’s thesis advisor. Additional formatting guidelines such as pagination, title page, footnotes and bibliography, and physical requirements such as paper, printing, margins and spacing, follow The Form of the PhD Dissertation, available at the GSAS website.

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