Curricular Requirements

The CAS PhD programme welcomes students who have a deep commitment to transnational research and who are curious about places, peoples, and processes in the region that do not fit easily within the conventional approaches to the study of Asia.


Candidates admitted must pursue in the University a course of advanced study comprising the following:

  1. Modular Credit (MC) Requirements
    A coursework component of no fewer than 8 modules (see “Modular Credit (MC) Requirements” below);
  2. Language Requirements
    Demonstration (by coursework or testing) of competency in 2 Asian languages (1 to “advanced” level, 1 to “intermediate” level);
  3. Qualifying Examination
    A Qualifying Examination (QE);
  4. Thesis
    A thesis on a comparative and multi-site research topic on Asia; and
  5. Oral Examination
    An oral defense of the thesis. 

In addition, a candidate may be required by the Programme Convenor to undertake such other work as may be deemed relevant to his/her candidature for the doctoral degree.

A. Modular Credit (MC) Requirements

At least 50% of the total modular credit (MC) requirements must be at level 6000.  Up to 25% of the total MC requirements may be at level 4000. The remaining MCs must be at level 5000 or 6000. This excludes the language modules.  Students are expected to take typically 4 modules each academic year.

8 modules must be completed, split as:

  1. 3 Core modules (see list here)

  2. 5 Elective modules (see list here)

    1. 3 Comparative Specialization modules

    2. 2 Free Elective modules

B. Language Requirements

In addition to the 8 modules, students will be required to study or test for proficiency in 2 Asian languages.  Students do not need to possess equal competence in both languages.  1 language should be of “advanced” level, typically involving at least 3 years of language study.  The other language should be of at least “intermediate” competency, typically involving at least 2 years of language study.  Students can be exempted from taking language modules on a case-by-case basis, depending on their proficiency.  Students will study or test for proficiency for their 2 languages from NUS’s Centre for Language Studies (CLS) for languages offered by CLS. 

C. Qualifying Examination

A candidate is required to take and pass a PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) which comprises the following:

  1. Comprehensive examinations (CEs) as determined by the Programme;
  2. Submission of a written thesis proposal (normally 30 to 50 pages);
  3. An oral defence of the candidate’s thesis proposal before an Examination Panel or Thesis Committee {including the candidate’s supervisor(s)} appointed by the Programme Convenor; and
  4. Additional Programme requirements, where applicable.

A candidate must satisfy the following conditions before being allowed to sit the QE:


  1. Taken and passed (at least a grade C) in a required Asian language module from NUS’s Centre for Language Studies or equivalent to advanced level and to show progression in undertaking the second Asian Language to intermediate level; and
  2. Where applicable, obtain satisfactory grades (at least at grade C) from NUS’s Centre for English Language Communication (CELC)’s graduate modules at intermediate level;
  3. Taken and passed (at least at grade C) all required Asian language modules  from NUS’s Centre for Language Studies or equivalent; and
  4. Other requirements as determined by the Programme Convenor.

All students should pass the QE within 24 months from the date of commencement of candidature. A second attempt may be allowed, within the first 2 years of the candidature, should candidates fail at their first attempt. This applies to both full-time and part-time candidates.

A student who fails any of the CEs or oral defence of the PhD thesis proposal is deemed to have failed the QE. The student is required to re-do only the failed component of the QE in order to pass the QE.

Candidates who fail the QE will be referred to the Board of Graduate Studies for consideration of termination of candidature.  With Faculty approval, they will then be given the option of taking up a 1-year Masters candidature in an FASS department to write their thesis and complete requirements to be awarded a Masters degree in that department’s discipline. There will be no Masters degree awarded in Comparative Asian Studies.

D. Thesis

Other than completing the required coursework and Qualifying Examination, a candidate is also required to complete and submit a thesis for examination within the maximum period of his/her candidature after completing the course of advanced study and research. 

A thesis should not exceed 80,000 words (including footnotes but excluding appendices, bibliography, maps, charts, statistical tables, graphs, illustrations, etc.). All theses must be written in English.

E. Oral Examination

The PhD candidate must defend the submitted thesis before a board of internal and external examiners at an oral examination.


Candidature / Duration

The maximum period of candidature is 72 months from the date of registration.  The period is inclusive of periods of approved leave.  It is exclusive of any period of preparatory study that may be required by the Programme Convenor.


Continuation Requirements

The minimum Cumulative Average Point (CAP) required for graduation is 3.50.  For any semester in which a candidate’s CAP falls below that required for graduation, he/she will be issued a warning or probation depending on the CAP. 

A candidate’s CAP should not fall below 3.00 for 2 consecutive semesters or 3.50 for three consecutive semesters.  Termination of candidature will result if a student fails to maintain the minimum CAP as stipulated. 

A candidate may also be issued a warning or placed on probation for poor performance on the Qualifying Examination, research thesis or other programme requirements.


Graduation Requirements

A candidate may be recommended for award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Asian Studies if he/she has paid all fees prescribed and met the following requirements at the end of the course:

  1. Obtained a minimum Cumulative Average Point of 3.50 for the required modules;
  2. Must not have failed more than 2 modules;
  3. Obtained a satisfactory grade (at least grade C) for all required Asian language modules or equivalent;
  4. Where applicable, obtained a satisfactory grade (at least grade C) in the graduate English courses conducted by CELC at advanced level;
  5. Passed the Doctor of Philosophy Qualifying Examination;
  6. Passed the Doctor of Philosophy thesis; and
  7. Passed the Oral Examination

The Board of Examiners may pass or fail a candidate, or refer him/her for further work; or recommend with the candidate’s agreement, that he/she be awarded a Masters degree after the thesis examination.

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