Regional Studies–East Asia

To receive the Master of Arts 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. Regional Studies-East Asia does not offer a PhD: only a Master of Arts. 

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 four- credit courses. Some students may take some of their courses in subjects related to their academic interests but outside the East Asian studies field. All students, however, must graduate with at least eight RSEA-approved four-credit courses. These courses must meet the following conditions:

  • All courses must receive a minimum grade of B or better in compliance with GSAS policy.
  • At least six courses used to fulfill RSEA course requirements must be FAS courses, even though RSEA students are permitted, within GSAS guidelines, to take up to two courses per term (no more than half their enrollment each term) through cross-registration at other Harvard schools or allied universities.
  • 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.
  • Only  two East Asian language courses may be used to fulfill the RSEA course requirement; however, they may not be used to fulfill the six East Asian courses requirement. Such language courses must be at least at or above the fourth-year level in the case of a primary East Asian language, or in the case of a second East Asian language, at least at the second-year level. Note: First-year Classical Chinese (Literary Chinese), 106a and 106b, cannot be used, but the Second-year Classical Chinese (107a and 107b) can.
  • Only one course graded SAT/UNSAT may be used to fulfill RSEA course requirements.
  • Only one "RSEA 300: Thesis Writing and Research" course, satisfactorily completed, may be used to fulfill RSEA course requirements
  • As of January 22, 2018, RSEA G1 students are not allowed to take a TIME course. Should a G2 student wish to take a TIME course, he or she must obtain a note from his or her Faculty Advisor that states the reason for a TIME course and expressly gives approval of it. The note must be addressed to the RSEA program and can be sent electronically to the Program Administrator.

Students should consult their faculty advisors and the RSEA Director of Graduate Studies regarding their proposed course of study. 

Policy on Incompletes

An RSEA student is not allowed to carry more than one Incomplete at any given time. Students with more than one Incomplete grade at any point during graduate studies will be placed into unsatisfactory status, which may compromise their funding. 

If a student has one Incomplete from G1, it must be completed by the end of the summer before the fall term of the G2 year begins; otherwise the student’s Faculty Advisor will be informed and the student will not be allowed to register for the fall term. Should the student turn in the work for the course but the Instructor has not yet sent in the grade change, an email note from the Instructor to the RSEA Program Administrator and the Director of Graduate Studies is required in order for the program to inform the student’s Faculty Advisor and to ask the Faculty Advisor to lift the “hold” for the student to register.

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 teachers of the language programs in placing students in the most appropriate course level. In the case of students who qualify to take courses at the fourth-year level or above, this placement may be used to demonstrate fulfillment of the RSEA language requirement.

Native speakers of an East Asian language who have a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree using their native 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).

Thesis Requirement

  • The thesis should be composed under the guidance of and in close consultation with the student’s thesis advisor.
  • The thesis should demonstrate original research and a fresh interpretation of a subject, significant use of primary sources in one (or more) East Asian language(s), and the candidate’s familiarity with previous scholarship related to the subject matter.
  • The body of the text (i.e., excluding bibliography and other supplementary material) is expected to be 60-80 pages in length (with Times New Roman font size 12, double spacing, and standard margins as required by GSAS—see below), or of a length deemed appropriate by the student’s thesis advisor.
  • For the form of presentation such as pagination, title page, footnote and bibliography, and physical requirements such as paper, printing, margins and spacing, follow GSAS Dissertation Formatting guidelines.


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 four-credit courses that satisfy the basic RSEA course requirements (as defined above); 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, or, Registration at Another Harvard School.  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. Additional information and application forms for non-residence status are available in the GSAS policies on non-resident status. Students should read the GSAS policy about non-residence status carefully.

Any additional information on the Regional Studies — East Asia master's program may be found on their website.