Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

East Asian Studies PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: East Asian Studies

Being supervised by staff from different parts of the university gives me the opportunity to absorb debates and methodologies from different disciplines and to conduct research from a broader, comparative and transnational perspective. Edinburgh is also a beautiful city, which I’ve loved since I first visited.

Brian Wong PhD candidate in East Asian Studies with supervisors in the Schools of Literatures, Languages and Cultures and History, Classics and Archaeology

Doctorate-level study is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research while also making original, positive contributions to learning in East Asian Studies.

Having been established over 50 years ago, Edinburgh’s expertise in this area supports both in-depth and diversified, disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research on the political, cultural and economic factors shaping international relations in the East Asian region and, comparatively, across the globe.

Research excellence

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), our research was submitted in the categories of:

  • Modern Languages and Linguistics
  • Politics and International Studies
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Theology and Religious Studies

The results reaffirm Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities - third in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research in Modern Languages and Linguistics alone, according to Times Higher Education's REF power ratings.

Join our community and undertake a specialised research project under the guidance of experienced and well-published supervisors. We have particular strengths in:

  • ancient philosophy and religion
  • the comparative politics of East Asia
  • classical and modern literature
  • media and films
  • imperialism, colonial rule and decolonisation
  • political and economic transformation

Explore our range of research centres, networks and projects in Asian Studies

Working with colleagues elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and across the wider University, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between languages and/or disciplines, including comparative literature, film studies, and translation studies.

Be inspired by the range of PhD research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Over the course of your PhD, you’ll be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

You will be awarded your doctorate if your thesis is judged to be of an appropriate standard, and your research makes a definite contribution to knowledge.

Go beyond the books

Beyond the Books is a podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research and the people who make it happen.

Listen to a mix of PhD, early career and established researchers talk about their journey to and through academia and about their current and recent research.

Browse Beyond the Books episodes and hear our research community talk about their work

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDEast Asian Studies6 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

This programme includes optional training on research skills, methods and problems.

Between the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), you will find a further range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills.

You will also have access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

Our graduates tell us that they value LLC’s friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with lots of opportunities to share ideas, learning and creative work.

Activities range from a regular seminar series in Asian Studies (with talks by esteemed visiting speakers, staff, and research students), to film screenings and workshops.

Read about a student's experience of co-organising the International Symposium for Young Scholars in Asia Seas

We are home to the Scottish Centre for Korean Studies, and have particularly strong links with the Confucius Institute for Scotland, the Consulate General of Japan, the Japan Foundation and the Korea Foundation.

Based in the Main University Library, the Centre for Research Collections is unique in the UK. It brings together:

  • a collection of more than 400,000 rare books (including Chengtze's 1440 Book of Changes)
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • the University’s collections of art, historical musical instruments and other objects

Notable collections include the East Asian Studies Collection of some 50,000 print and digital resources, including a dedicated Korea Collection supported by the Korea Foundation.

As a PhD candidate here, you will be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh in a world-leading festival city with a thriving East Asian cultural scene.

Many important collections are a short walk from our buildings, including those in the National Library, Museum and Galleries of Scotland. For example, the National Library of Scotland has 127 volumes of Chinese books (printed between 1655 and 1912) and the National Museum of Scotland holds a unique Chinese collection, including the second-largest collection of oracle bones outside of East Asia.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree and a masters degree, or their international equivalents, in a related subject.

We may also consider your application if you have equivalent qualifications or experience; please check with the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDEast Asian Studies3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDEast Asian Studies6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

There are a number of scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH
Programme start date Application deadline
6 January 2025 31 October 2024

If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

The online application process involves the completion of a web form and the submission of supporting documents.

For a PhD programme, you should include:

  • a sample of written work of about 3,000 words (this can be a previous piece of work from an undergraduate or masters degree)
  • a research proposal - a detailed description of what you hope to achieve and how

You will also need to supply two references.

Before you apply, you should also look at the interests and expertise of our research community on the programme website. This will help you decide if this programme is right for you and your supervision needs.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH