University of Sydney Handbooks - 2019 Archive

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Asian Studies

About the major

Asia is home to the world's fastest growing economies and the largest cities. The dynamic cultures of the region shape the modern world while boasting centuries of tradition. In the Asian Studies Program, we aim to give students the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in the ‘Asian Century’ by offering units that examine major cultural, historical, social and political issues.

Our curriculum draws on the expertise of academics from the departments of Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and Indian Subcontinental Studies to explore a broad range of country-specific and trans-national themes. These include such topics as urbanism and technology, social structure and gender, development, the environment, literature and ethnicity, and the region’s major religions and philosophies (particularly Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam). Students can critically examine modern social trends and popular culture (anime, manga, cinema, and K-Pop) alongside such phenomena as nationalism, revolution, military rule, and democracy. The aim is to develop cultural and social literacy that deepens understanding and broadens career possibilities.

Asian Studies units are taught in English. Many of our students are engaged in Asian Studies as a major or minor to complement and enhance their study of an Asian language. It is also possible to double major in Asian Studies and an Asian language. High performing students can specialize by pursuing honours or a postgraduate research degree that focuses on a specific topic of their choosing.

Requirements for completion

A major in Asian Studies requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Asian Studies requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

First year units in Asian Studies provide a broad overview of the different regions of Asia. In the first semester, students can usually choose between a unit that critically introduces the cultures of Asia or a more specialized unit on Chinese civilisation. The second semester unit employs the methods of ‘big history’ to enhance a comparative approach and give a global perspective on the study of Asia.

Second year

Building on the foundational knowledge provided in first year, second-year units develop country-specific understandings of China, Japan, Korea and Indonesia, as well as provide ways of analysing connections between parts of East and Southeast Asia. Through their unit choices, students may choose, for example, to specialise in the study of Buddhism in Asia, or focus on history, the arts, or politics and society. Students engage with complex problems in the understanding of Asia and connect specific issues with global contexts.

Third year

Third-year units in Asian Studies examine advanced topics that develop from the country and thematic specialisations of second year. Units of study develop understandings of specific Asian societies and inter-connections between different parts of Asia, allowing students to apply high-level critical and problem-solving skills.


If you commenced your degree prior to 2018: Admission to Honours requires a major in Asian Studies with an average of 70 percent or above, including ASNS3690 Approaches to Research in Asian Studies, or equivalent subject if you are entering honours from another university.

If you commenced your degree in 2018: Admission to Honours is accomplished via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Asian Studies with an average of 70 percent or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing Honours.

The honours program consists of two seminars and an 18,000-20,000 word thesis on a topic of the student’s interest. As with the undergraduate Asian Studies major, all units and the thesis will be in English. However, we encourage students with Asian-language proficiency to utilise sources in that language for their thesis research.

Advanced coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in Asian Studies are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2020.

Contact and further information

Program website:

Asian Studies Director and Undergraduate Coordinator: Dr Matthew Stavros
Phone: +61 2 9351 4805

Honours and Postgraduate Research Coordinator: Dr Sean Moores
Phone: +61 2 9351 4180

International Exchange Coordinataor: Dr Lionel Babicz
Phone: + 61 2 9351 6765