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Leiden Chinese Studies Masters


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I'm looking to take a Chinese Studies/Sinology masters program either next year or the year after. The only courses I've found that fit (I do have a first degree in CS, but I'm not interested in focusing on social sciences, primary interests in literature/culture) are Leiden and SOAS (Sinology). They both look great, but London is prohibitively expensive. The view is to to a PhD etc afterwards, but if that doesn't work out I'm happy to be doing the masters for it's own sake.

So... who's taken the masters at Leiden? I'd be really interested to hear impressions of the teaching, organisation, further prospects. I speak no Dutch - would that cause any difficulties?

Also, I have found no hint of a scholarship or grant I'd be eligible to apply for (as an EU national). Can this be true? SOAS has a list as long as your arm, and most British universities at least offer AHRC block funding.

Really grateful for any info.


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I'm not sure which of the two MA programmes you are looking at - there's one by coursework and one by research.

For the MA by coursework, you'll have to spend the first year in China taking language courses, unless you can show that your Chinese is already up to par (you'll need an HSK certificate or a certificate from a Chinese university where you spent at least one academic year). There are scholarships available from Leiden to cover this first year in China. In the second year, back at Leiden, you'll have to take a number of courses and write your thesis.

The MA by research doesn't require you to spend a year in China, and you'll probably be in Leiden for both years, although there is a possibility to go abroad in your second year (e.g. for fieldwork). You'll be required to write a longer thesis than for the MA by coursework.

All classes are taught in English or Mandarin, and everyone speaks English. You won't need to speak any Dutch anywhere at Leiden University, or in the Netherlands in general. All government matters can generally be dealt with in English, although we would normally use Dutch, of course. There are lots of students from other EU countries and Asian countries in the programme. Of course, it helps to learn some Dutch so you can follow idle chit-chat at the coffee machine, but most people will switch to English if necessary.

If you're primarily interested in literature, you could always write to the professor of Chinese literature, Maghiel van Crevel. The current professor of traditional Chinese culture is leaving for Oxford in January, and it's not yet clear who is going to be taking over from him in the next academic year. You can see a list of other professors involved in the programme here.

There should be some scholarships available, but I don't think there are going to be as many as in the UK. Then again, at 1460 GBP (current exchange rates) for the next academic year, tuition fees aren't quite as astronomical here (yet) as they are in the UK. You could write to Ms. Amir, the programme coordinator, for more information on scholarships.

I graduated from the MA by coursework just a few weeks ago, so if you have any further questions, feel free to ask away. Full disclosure: I also taught Classical Chinese 202 at Leiden last term :)

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Thanks very much for all the info, Daan. I was looking at the masters by coursework, and I forgot to say I would probably apply to skip the first year abroad - I'm taking the new HSK 6 in December, which should be enough if I get it.

Can I take it that you enjoyed the course? Or at least thought it was well taught and well organised (except Classical Chinese 202 of course) ?

Are you planning to go on to a PhD? Do many people from the course? How many students are usually on the course?

The tuition fees are zip, I freely admit, but I'll need help with maintenance/living costs. The Leiden Excelllence scholarship is only for non-EU nationals, which seems a bit... odd.

I wrote to Ms Amir a month or two back and just got an out-of-office type reply saying she was too busy to reply to anyone's emails... not sure how to progress there.

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anonymoose, it doesn't happen a lot, but sometimes teachers will be unable to teach one of their courses because of research commitments, and in those cases advanced MA students are sometimes asked to teach first-year or second-year courses. Classical Chinese 202 is a second-year course in the BA programme, so that's why they asked me to teach that course for two hours a week. You can't really hire a new lecturer to teach for just two hours/week :)

PopaJay, I think the requirement is for you to have passed level 4 (or 5?) of the new HSK, so if you can get level 6, that should definitely be fine. And yes, I enjoyed my courses a lot. The Mandarin courses helped me get my written Chinese to a much higher level (I can now finally write business and academic reports without sounding much too informal), and the content courses are good too: small-scale and taught by experts in their respective fields. Here's a list of the courses offered in the MA by coursework this year, which you have probably seen. Seems like prof. Van Crevel is not teaching any literature courses this year - but you could write to him and ask for a syllabus from a previous year, if you're interested. He'll probably also know whether he's going to be teaching any literature courses next academic year.

There are usually about 30 students on the course, but not many go on to do PhDs. I think most people who want to get a PhD do the MA by research, even though it's not at all a requirement to do so. I am planning to go on to a PhD myself at some point, but right now I've been offered a chance to work on a really cool project for a year, so I decided to put doing a PhD off for a year. For the MA by research, almost everyone who wants to go on to do a PhD gets a scholarship to do so somewhere (this year people have gone to Oxford and the National University of Singapore).

I think the idea is that non-EU nationals are treated differently under EU law: they have to pay full tuition fees, rather than subsidised ones that all EU nationals get. So that's probably why there are scholarships available for them, though I must admit I don't know much about Dutch scholarships in general...I can't get them anyway :)

It may help to send your email again, or to just call her. Summer is generally a very busy time for the administrative people within the department because they're handling all the paperwork for incoming students (100 a year in the BA programme, plus the MA programmes), as well as awarding certificates to graduating students.

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