The Best Southeast Asian Studies Programs

We originally intended to write a blog post on the best undergraduate programs for students interested in majoring in Southeast Asian studies. We set out to find programs that would allow students to delve into the histories of Southeast Asian countries while taking classes about literature, religion, and language. The results of that search were very disappointing.

Typically, when we write our “best of” blog posts, we have too many schools to choose from. We choose specific programs based on class offerings, the expertise of professors, and other unique opportunities. But we found that there aren’t many programs dedicated entirely (and specifically) to Southeast Asian studies, so we had to extend the parameters of our search. The schools on this list offer either a major or a minor in South Asian and Southeast Asian studies.  You’ll find details below.


The Interdepartmental Degree Program at UCLA allows students to major in Asian Studies and minor in Southeast Asian studies. Studying abroad is encouraged, but the fellowships (there are only two) are only available to graduate students. The class offerings are among the best we found, and can be sorted on the website (linked above) by countries in Southeast Asia.   

UC Berkeley:

The department of South and Southeast Asian studies at Berkeley focuses heavily on language. But classes about literature, philosophy, and religion are also available. Beyond that, there are classes centered around ancient and modern studies and socio-cultural disciplines.  

University of Washington:

Southeast Asian studies is a concentration within the Asian studies major at the University of Washington. Students take classes such as The Rise of Asia, History of Southeast Asia, Filipino Histories, and the Vietnam Wars. The program aims to familiarize students with all of the Southeast Asian countries, and languages classes are available for Thai, Indonesian, Tagalog, Burmese, and Vietnamese.  


Southeast Asian studies is available as a minor at Cornell. While we wish it was offered as a major, the breadth of the course offerings made the program worth mentioning. The school offers classes about language, literature, religion, culture, history, politics, anthropology, sociology, and economics. The Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies has more information about lectures, extracurricular activities, and events.

Claremont McKenna:

South and Southeast Asia is one of three concentrations available in Asian studies major, which is a cooperative program of the Claremont colleges. The major requires 8 Asian studies courses and three years of language.

University of Montana:

South and Southeast Asian studies are grouped into a minor at the University of Montana, and students are required to take 18 credits worth of classes. The offerings include classes about culture, history and societies; and literary, artistic, and religious traditions. Language is not a requirement.  

University of Wisconsin, Madison:

We almost didn’t write about this program because it’s yet to be released, but it could be helpful to students applying in the future. Starting in the fall of this year, Wisconsin will offer a B.A. in Asian Languages and Cultures. Southeast Asian studies is one of three available concentrations, and we will update this post when more information is released in coming weeks.


If you’re interested in Southeast Asian studies, reach out to us here. We’ll help you find the right program.