The Middle East and South Asia are two regions of vital interest to our world today. The Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES) is pleased to offer Master of Arts degrees in South Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

This two-year program is designed for the needs of students preparing for further academic study in a particular discipline and students preparing for careers in government, NGOs, business, the media, international law, private foundations, or cultural exchanges. The program provides broad exposure to the history, cultures, societies, and politics of the area as well as to the variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to its study. For individuals planning non-academic careers, such study is essential in preparing to respond to the growing opportunities and challenges presented by this region. For students planning academic careers, the program provides wide and multifaceted knowledge of the region and valuable experience in interdisciplinary study and interpretation.

Students choose a concentration in either South Asian or Middle Eastern studies.

What we offer

We offer advising and academic support to students by working closely with approximately fifty departments and seventy-five affiliated faculty, who bring to CSAMES their expertise and diverse areas of interest, including contemporary and historical studies of South Asia and the Middle East, and inquiries into such topics as religious and social identities, cultural values, literary expression, urbanization, politics and gender.

Illinois offers regular courses in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Turkish, Hindi, and Sanskrit. More than thirty language courses and over fifty graduate-level disciplinary courses are available to students. For a complete course listing, click here. M.A. students may also take classes in languages not taught at Illinois by taking advantage of the course share program run by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. For more information, click here.

Students at Illinois have access to a varied program of lectures, conferences, and seminars with national and international experts, and outstanding faculty in more than forty fields of study. This allows students to craft a degree program suited to their individual career goals. With a collection of over 13 million volumes in over 150 languages, Illinois houses the second largest academic library collection in North America, including over 100,000 volumes, micro-texts and audio-video materials in Middle Eastern languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Turkish and Kurdish, and 135,000 volumes in South Asian languages, such as Assamese, Bengali, Burmese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Prakit, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.


We admit graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds, with respect to discipline, research interests, and geographical focus.  Applicants for admission must meet the minimum standards established by the Graduate College for graduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but final selection is determined by a committee of the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Applicants should apply online through the graduate application website. If necessary, paper applications may be requested from the department.

Applicants must submit the following:

  • an application
  • a statement of purpose
  • full transcripts of undergraduate and graduate work
  • a writing sample
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (verbal, mathematical, and analytical)
  • TOEFL scores (only for non-native speakers of English)
  • & three letters of reference completed by teachers, advisors, or recent employers

Applicants are expected to have a strong background in at least one South Asian or Middle Eastern language; normally, this means a minimum of two years of formal study. Students whose native language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and must score greater than 610 on the paper-based TOEFL or greater than 102 on the internet-based TOEFL (TOEFL iBT) to be eligible for admission with full standing. (Please view the TOEFL requirements on the Graduate College admission website.) Applicants must specify a specialization in either South Asian or Middle Eastern studies. Admission is possible only for the fall semester.

The application deadline for the MA program for Fall 2022 is January 15, 2023.

Financial Support

CSAMES M.A. and incoming students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to compete for Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships offered under the Higher Education Act, Title VI, US Department of Education. Awards are for interdisciplinary language and area studies, and are offered by several area studies centers on our campus.   Please click here for full information.  M.A. students may also apply for graduate assistantships of various types. Click here for information on available assistantships.

Useful Links

Degree Requirements for the Master of Arts

Candidates for the M.A. must:

  • complete 32 hours in area-related graduate-level courses, including at least three courses at the 500 level
  • demonstrate a reading knowledge of one of the languages related to their regional specialization at the fourth-year level by satisfactory completion of an examination or appropriate course work
  • pass a written examination covering the area studies taken while in residence. For details on the exam, click here. For view of form to schedule M.A. exam, click here.

Current Master’s Students

Take a look at our current Master’s students to see their specializations and areas of interest, and to contact them with questions about their experiences with our program.