Kaiyuan Temple, Chaozhou, Guandong. Photo by Brian Lander.

Kaiyuan Temple, Chaozhou, Guandong. Photo by Brian Lander.

EALAC Ph.D. Program (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Tibetan studies)

1. Course Requirements
2. Research Papers and M.A. Degree
3. Language Requirements
4. Teaching Requirement
5. Registration Category Requirements
6. M.Phil. Oral Examinations
7. Ph.D. Dissertation Prospectus
8. Dissertation Workshops
9. Dissertation Defense
10. Dissertation
11. Advanced Standing
12. Conference Travel Funds
13. Annual Fellowship Renewal Form
14. Distinction Awarded to Dissertations in EALAC

Prior to entry into the program, the student must have completed at least three years of study in the East Asian language of specialization. In addition, a student who is a candidate for the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Course Requirements

The student must take twelve one-semester courses for grade credit, at least six of which must be graduate-level colloquia or seminars. One of the twelve courses must be outside the student’s East Asian country of specialization. The student is strongly urged to take a methodology course appropriate to his or her discipline to be determined in consultation with the advisor. The student should take a bibliography course dealing with or appropriate to the country of specialization when available. The methodology and bibliography courses are counted as two of the twelve required courses. The choice of courses must be approved by the student’s advisor and by the DGS. Courses in first-year classical Chinese can be counted toward the twelve courses. Second-year classical Chinese can be counted as a graduate colloquium/seminar.

2. Research Papers and M.A. Degree

All students, including those already holding an M.A., write a research paper to be completed by the end of the third semester. Students who enter the program without an M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University should apply to receive the M.A. degree upon completion of this paper (which will count as the M.A. thesis, 25 to 30 pages in length) and course requirements. Any student who has already received an M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University is exempt from having to apply for another M.A. from us, as well as from the additional paper requirement. However, two additional papers must be completed by all other students by the time of the oral examination, one paper based on research in primary sources, and one paper outside the student’s primary specialization to be chosen in consultation with, and submitted to, the advisor.

This is done by completing the following two steps:

  1. Apply for the M.A. degree with the Registrar.
  2. Submit the completed, typed M.A. Degree Requirements Checklist for PhD Candidates form, signed by your advisor along with a copy of your Columbia academic transcript (unofficial or official) to the EALAC office, 407 Kent Hall.

3. Language Requirements

Entering students are required to take the language placement examination in the East Asia language of specialization at the beginning of the semester in which they enter the program, unless that language was the primary language of instruction at the institution from which they received the B.A. degree. The student must fulfill the following language requirements listed below by field that are applicable to his or her work.

A. The primary language

  • Chinese language requirements: Fifth-year modern Chinese, or the equivalent; two years classical Chinese, or the equivalent.
  • Japanese language requirements: Fifth-year Japanese, or the equivalent, for all students; one year of classical Japanese, or the equivalent; one semester of Kanbun or one year of classical Chinese.
  • Korean language requirement: Fifth-year Korean, or the equivalent; Korean GR8010, “Advanced Korean in Mixed Script”
  • Tibetan language requirement: Third-year Tibetan, or the equivalent; Third-year classical Tibetan or the equivalent. Chinese language training also relevant (see below).

Ph.D. language examination requirements: language exemption is fulfilled by earning a B or better in required courses. Those with equivalent course(s) completed elsewhere still must pass the placement examination.

B. Second and third languages

  • Required for the study of China: For Pre-Qing history and premodern literature: three years of Japanese or the equivalent. For Qing and later history, three years of Japanese or another preferred Asian language chosen in consultation with the advisor. For modern Chinese literature, three years of Japanese or two years of a European language. All students are encouraged to take a reading course in French (FRENS UN1204) or German (German UN1115) and pass the reading exam, but the advisor should decide whether this is necessary.
  • Required for the study of Japan: For all students: Two years of a European language, or two years of a second Asian language in their classical or modern form, in consultation with the advisor. Pre-1800 history: two years of Classical Chinese.
  • Required for the study of Korea: For all students: three years of Japanese or the equivalent; for students in premodern literature: one year of classical Chinese or the equivalent. If necessary, reading knowledge of a European language in consultation with the advisor.
  • Required for the study of Tibet: For all students: reading knowledge of one European language or Japanese, chosen in consultation with advisor. For all students: three years of modern Chinese or two years of modern Chinese and one year Classical Chinese, chosen in consultation with advisor. In exceptional cases in which Chinese is not necessary for research interests, this requirement may be waived in consultation with advisor.

C. Second European language requirements

A second European language, if required by the advisor.


4. Teaching Requirement

Beginning in their second year, Ph.D. students gain teaching exposure through apprenticeships in the undergraduate East Asia program, largely offered by EALAC and the Committee on Asia and the Middle East. These assignments are determined by the DGS.

5. Registration Category Requirements

All doctoral students are required to maintain continuous registration as long as they are enrolled in the program and are not taking a Leave of Absence.  This means that every semester, regardless of funding source or physical location, you are required to register (via SSOL) for one of the registration categories below.


First-year and second-year students: register for a full Residence Unit (RU) during both semesters.

Third-year students:

  1. If you have completed less than 6 RUs, register for a full RU both semesters.
  2. If you have completed 6 RUs, register for Extended Residence (ER).

Fourth-year through seventh-year students:

  1. During the semester you are teaching, register for Extended Residence (ER).
  2. During the semester you are not teaching, register for Matriculation & Facilities (M&F).

Students on external funding: You must register for Matriculations & Facilities for both semesters.

Students on CU Fellowship but not teaching (Dissertation Fellows): If you are using a year of your Columbia University fellowship and have already completed your teaching duties, you must register for an M&F for both semesters.

Registration Call Numbers:
Residence Unit (full RU): 99991
Extended Residence (ER): 77771
Matriculations & Facilities (M&F): 88881

For more information, please consult the GSAS registration page.

6. M.Phil. Oral Examinations

The student must take a two-hour comprehensive oral examination in three or four subject areas defined in consultation with the advisor and the DGS. Normally, one of these subject areas is outside the student’s country of specialization. The committee for the oral examination, which is put together by the advisor, consists of three or more faculty members. It is up to the student to consult carefully with the advisor and DGS in constructing an effective program and schedule. The oral examination is normally taken at the end of the third year (but no later than the end of the fourth year) of PhD study.

Please complete the following form and submit it to the EALAC office in 407 Kent no later than two weeks before your scheduled oral examination.

Before your oral examination, please make sure to complete the following four documents, to be submitted to the EALAC office in 407 Kent. Please note that the first two forms MUST be typed and will not be accepted otherwise. These forms should be brought to your oral examination already filled out. If you have any questions while filling out these forms, consult with the Academic Coordinator.

7. Ph.D. Dissertation Prospectus

In order to receive the M.Phil, the student must pass an oral defense of the dissertation prospectus before his or her M.Phil oral examination committee or before a dissertation prospectus committee selected by the advisor. The prospectus is usually a revision of the grant proposal submitted to outside funders at the beginning of the third year for dissertation research in Asia. The prospectus defense is normally carried out in conjunction with the M. Phil oral examination, but it may be taken afterwards, either within six months of the oral examination or before leaving for field research (whichever occurs first). For the purpose of fellowships requirements, it is possible to defend the prospectus in advance of the oral defense.

For the Report of the Dissertation Proposal Committee Form, see 6. M.Phil. Oral Examinations.

8. Dissertation Workshops

All post-M.Phil. students are required by GSAS to participate in dissertation workshops at least once per year between their fourth and seventh years. The workshops provide students with the opportunity to receive feedback on their dissertation work in a group setting. EALAC offers a colloquium series as one option for fulfilling this requirement. The format of the colloquium is flexible and can take the form of a formal presentation of a dissertation chapter, a group discussion of a pre-circulated draft, or a mix of the two. The requirement may also be fulfilled through a range of other options, such as participating in student-run writing groups, presenting at non-EALAC dissertation workshops, or receiving feedback through job talks.

Students wishing to sign up for an EALAC workshop date should contact Jae Won Chung (jec2118@columbia.edu). Please provide your name, year, field, preferred dates (you can choose multiple), provisional title of the presentation (may be changed at a later date), and discussant name (you may find someone at a later date). All the dates fall on a Thursday and the sessions will run from 2pm-4pm at 403 Kent.

Potential Fall 2016 Dates:
October 6, October 20, November 3, November 17, December 1, December 15

Potential Spring 2017 Dates:
January 26, February 9, February 23, March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20

9. Dissertation Defense

See the GSAS Dissertation page for all University rules about dissertation preparation, defense, and deposit.

Students must be registered in the semester in which they distribute their dissertation. PhD students should be aware that if they distribute their dissertation during the summer session they incur the cost registering for the term, which EALAC does not cover, so please plan your defenses accordingly.

Dissertation defense, registration status, and deposit policies are as follows:

  1. Defense applications should ideally be submitted four – but no fewer than two – weeks before the scheduled defense date: Application for the Dissertation Defense Applications received within two weeks of the proposed defense date will not be accepted, and the defense will have to be rescheduled. GSAS no longer requires students to file the form titled Intent to Distribute and Defend. In its place, all students who intend to participate in graduation ceremonies must complete the Convocation Registration and Mailing Materials Form.
  2. In order to meet the Graduate School’s requirement for continuous registration, Ph.D. candidates must register for full-time enrollment each semester until the semester of distribution. Once a dissertation has been distributed, students are no longer required to register. If a student intends to distribute during a specific term and does not do so before the end of that term, the student must register in the following semester.
  3. To assist us in maintaining accurate information on the academic progress of our students, the committee that evaluates the dissertation proposal or prospectus must complete the Report of the Dissertation Proposal Committee form at the time of the defense of the proposal. The department should submit the completed form to GSAS immediately after the prospectus defense.

The forms used by the Dissertation Office are listed below:

10. Dissertation

Those students who complete the requirements for the Ph.D. program except for the dissertation receive the M.Phil. degree. Ph.D. candidates are then required to complete and submit a dissertation, which must be prepared through research by the student conducted in close consultation with his or her Ph.D. faculty sponsor. When a committee member can only participate from afar, an accommodation may be made by employing audio or video conferencing during the defense. A maximum of two members of the dissertation defense committee may participate remotely, but the committee chair and the sponsor must be present at the defense and GSAS must be informed of this arrangement at the time of application. The dissertation defense is held before five faculty members, two of whom must be from outside the department. Generally, no more than one member may participate in this manner. The accepted dissertation (subject to whatever revisions the defense committee may deem appropriate) must be typed in conformity with the University’s dissertation format and deposited with the Dissertation Office, whose template may be found here.

11. Advanced Standing

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with a M.A. or equivalent degree in East Asian Studies may be eligible for advanced standing.  These include students who received the M.A degree from a Columbia’s East Asian Studies program and those who earned a M.A degree from another institution that is the academic equivalent of the Columbia’s M.A. The granting of the Advanced Standing is decided by the department, and it gives 2 Residence Units, which will shorten the student’s study period by 4 courses. At the same time, it results in reduction of the student’s multi-year funding by one year, regardless the origin of the student’s M.A. degree.

In order to receive Advanced Standing, the student must submit his or her M.A. thesis or its equivalent, a research paper, for the department’s approval. Students with advanced standing must take eight (instead of twelve) one-semester courses for grade credits at least four of which must be graduate-level colloquia or seminars. Specific course requirements may be waived, if taken for the M.A., subject to the approval of the DGS. All other requirements remain the same as those of the Ph.D. program.

12. Conference Travel Funds

Each year, EALAC offers a limited number of travel matching funds (up to $250) to support EALAC PhD students to present papers in domestic and international conferences and workshops. The student must apply for DGS approval and submit their application to GSAS prior to travel and can be reimbursed upon return.

If you are funded by either the Department of History or the Department of Religion, you should apply directly to your respective department for this grant. 

Please adhere to the following instructions when applying for this funding:

  1. Complete the application form.
  1. Submit the form, a copy of the invitation to participate or the relevant page in the conference program, and a budget directly to the DGS by leaving a paper copy of all application materials in the DGS mailbox in 407 Kent one month in advance of the deadline (see below for deadlines) and then notify the DGS
  1. Once the DGS has reviewed your application, he or she will inform you of the decision and at this point you will be responsible for submitting the Application for Conference Matching Travel Funds to the Office of Student Affairs in 107 Low Library
  1. If you need further assistance with the application, contact the Business Manager or Financial Assistant

Application deadlines are as follows:

  • July 3 — for conferences held May through August
  • November 3 — for conferences held September through December
  • March 3 — for conferences held January through April

Please take into account that the DGS will need to review and return your files prior to your submission. The department cannot guarantee that submissions tendered to the DGS less than two weeks prior to the deadline will be reviewed. 

Since last year, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture provides matching funds for travel to conferences or workshops by graduate students.  Students who receive funds from EALAC that are matched by GSAS are eligible to have those funds matched again by the DKC.  Information on the GSAS matching program is available at the following url:

Additional matching funds from DKC:

Students who receive funds from EALAC that are matched by GSAS are eligible to have those funds matched again by the Donald Keene Center (DKC). Once students have been approved for EALAC funds and the GSAS match, they should contact the DKC program coordinator, Yoshiko Niiya <yn11@columbia.edu> with copies of the application materials submitted to EALAC and GSAS and confirmation of their approval of funding.  The DKC will transmit funds to EALAC to be included in the payment issued by the department to the student.  Any such application to the DKC must be made at least a week before the the conference or workshop, but only after approval by EALAC and GSAS, so please plan accordingly.

Note additionally that students who have reached their career maximum of two matching grants from GSAS are still eligible to have EALAC travel funds matched by the DKC; their covering email to the DKC should explain that this is why they are not submitting evidence of GSAS approval.

After the conference:

Within 10 days of concluding travel or receiving the award letter (whichever is later), students should complete the following steps:

  1. Download or print the Travel and Business Expense Report (Excel file) and complete its upper portion, noting “Graduate Student” next to the student’s name
  2. Include a complete explanation of the business purpose for the trip (for example, “travel to deliver paper at Name of Conference in City from date to date“)
  3. Tape the original receipts to an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper so that the entirety of each receipt is visible; use as many sheets as necessary
  4. Provide evidence of participation in the conference (e.g., a copy of the program showing the student’s name and title of the paper delivered)
  5. Sign and submit the Travel and Business Expense Report, along with all supporting materials, to the Business Manager or Financial Assistant
  1. For more information, please visit Columbia’s conference funding page.

13. Annual Fellowship Renewal Form

The PhD student must fill out the annual fellowship renewal form in the spring of each year in order for the fellowship to be renewed. This form contains a checklist of the requirements and a schedule for the fulfillment of requirements. It also allows the student to indicate preferences for TA appointments. The forms, which must be signed by the respective advisors, are reviewed each spring by the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. For instructions on retrieving your TA evaluations, please follow this link.

14. Distinction Awarded to Dissertations in EALAC

EALAC recognizes superior academic work in dissertations that rank in quality in the top 10% defended by our students by formally designating them as “passing with distinction.” This nomination can not be initiated by the sponsor. Following a unanimous vote by the members of a dissertation defense committee, the Chair of the committee must nominate the dissertation for distinction in a letter to the EALAC Chair and Director of Graduate Studies, who will determine whether distinction will be granted. Candidates are not to be informed that the committee has voted for distinction until the final decision has been made by the EALAC Chair and DGS. This recognition is conferred at the departmental level: GSAS no longer grants distinction to dissertations, but departments are free to grant it to superb work by their students.

Dissertations defended before Commencement but not deposited until afterward will be eligible for distinction if so recommended at the time of their defense.