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Regional Studies–East Asia

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To receive the master of arts in regional studies–East Asia, a student must satisfy the requirements established by the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for all master’s degree candidates as well as those additionally determined by the Committee on Regional Studies East Asia. Regional Studies–East Asia (RSEA) only offers a master of arts (AM) degree; it does not offer a PhD.  


The RSEA program matches newly admitted students to academic faculty advisors in their field and area of study. The RSEA Director of Graduate Studies meets with students regularly and is available for consultation, as are the Chair and the Program Administrator. Students make individual arrangements with a faculty member to serve as their thesis advisor.

Academic Requirements

The RSEA program is designed to be flexible, allowing 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. During the two-year program of study, students take a total of 16 four-credit courses. Students may take courses outside the East Asian studies field but should consult their faculty academic advisors regarding their proposed course of study.

All students must graduate with at least eight RSEA-approved four-credit courses that must meet the following criteria:

  • A minimum grade of B or better must be received in all courses, in compliance with Harvard Griffin GSAS policy.
  • At least six courses used to fulfill RSEA course requirements must be FAS courses, even though RSEA students are permitted, within Harvard Griffin GSAS guidelines, to take up to two courses per semester (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 counted toward the six East Asian content 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.
  • In addition to the RSEA 350: Proseminar course, only one other 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.
  • RSEA G1 students are not permitted to take RSEA 390 or other unsupervised TIME courses. G2 students who wish to take the RSEA 390 course, must submit a note of approval from their faculty academic advisor that states the reason for taking a TIME course and that expressly gives approval of it to the RSEA Program Administrator.

Policy on Incompletes

An RSEA student is not allowed to have more than one Incomplete grade 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. A grade of Incomplete (INC) in a course must be converted into a letter grade before the end of the next registration period. Students not clearing an incomplete grade by the next registration period may not be permitted to register. Courses not receiving a grade at the end of the semester will be treated as Incomplete.

Language Requirement

All RSEA students must show proficiency in an East Asian language that supports their academic plan of study. Students may satisfy the requirement by completing a third-year (or higher) East Asian language course at Harvard or demonstrate the equivalent proficiency through the language placement exams administered by the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. All students entering the RSEA program with some East Asian language background are required to take the placement tests, including native speakers.

Thesis Requirement

  • 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.
  • The thesis should be composed under the guidance of and in close consultation with the student’s Thesis Advisor. Students are responsible for making arrangements with a faculty member to supervise their thesis.
  • The format and submission of the thesis must meet the RSEA Committee requirements provided to students in their first thesis workshop.


The RSEA program ordinarily entails two full years in residence. The minimum 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 of a B (3.0) grade point average.

Students who have completed their first year of full-time study in residence may, with the proper approvals, plan to be away from campus for one or two semesters. Additional information and application forms for non-residence status are available in Policies under Registration. Students should carefully read the policy on non-resident students.  

Additional information on the regional studies–East Asia master's program may be found on the RSEA program website.

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