Asia - South and Central region | University of Oxford
South central Asia
Buddhist shrine in the Himalayas.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Asia - South and Central region

Study of South and Central Asia

The Faculty of Oriental Studies

The Faculty of Oriental Studies, part of the University’s Humanities division, is home to a broad and varied teaching and research programme in the history, literatures, languages, politics, religions, and cultures of South and Inner Asia. The Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme (CSASP) covers study of the South Asian region and offers a unique one year MSt in Contemporary India Studies. Oriental Studies and the Faculty of History jointly offer a one-year MSt in Modern South Asian Studies and Oriental Studies also offers a two-year MPhil which gives students an in-depth understanding of the histories, societies, and cultures of South Asia and neighbouring regions, alongside the intensive study of one South Asian language from a choice of Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Brajbhasha, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Persian, and Nepali. Graduates can also study for an MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies.

The Faculty of Oriental Studies works closely with the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College, founded in 1982. The Asian Studies Centre is primarily a co-ordinating organisation which exists to bring together specialists from a wide variety of different disciplines. Geographically, the Centre predominantly covers South, Southeast and East Asia and is home to the weekly South Asian History Seminar Series, which brings together scholars and students working on the region from across the University, many belonging to disciplines such as history, anthropology, politics, sociology and literature. The Asian Studies Centre is keen to support comparative research on Asia, and research on regional themes, to encourage debate and dialogue within the diverse student body of St Antony’s College and across the University more generally.

The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre

The University also has a rich set of programmes and resources relating to the Central Asian region. The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre at St Antony's College provides a hub for research on Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Centre organises seminars, addressed by visiting speakers, which have been weekly in term-time throughout the past fifty years. They have drawn in the most outstanding scholars in the field who come to Oxford both from the countries which are the object of study and from Western Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere. Between them, the Centre Fellows cover Twentieth Century Russian history, Russian and Soviet politics and foreign policy, Russian literature and culture, and the economics of Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia. Supported by the Centre, graduate students in Russian and Eastern European studies can focus on Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.


A small sample of our broad research links in the South Asia region include:

Oxford University is part of a large multi-institution consortium that won a large grant in June 2012 to explore links between poverty alleviation and ecosystem services in the Bay of Bengal Delta. Professor Paul Whitehead and Dr Fai Fung, from Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment will be modelling the rivers upstream of the Delta – the Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Meghna – to assess impacts of climate change, land use change, water diversions and dams on flows and nutrients arriving into Bangladesh from India and the Himalaya.

The Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah Fellowship at St Antony’s College was established in 1978 with a gift from the Government of Pakistan. Named in honour of the founder of Pakistan, this fellowship conducts research within the general field of social sciences with reference to the Muslims of the sub-continent and of present day Pakistan.   

A new study led by Dr Craig Jeffrey is looking at how young educated people who are unemployed become politicised in different ways - either through violent struggle or as reformers working for a more equal society. The project is one of the first to compare in depth the experiences across different countries of the young who are educated and yet unemployed.  The project focuses on three countries particularly affected by youth unemployment: northern India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Social anthropological researchers in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, led by Professor David Gellner and Dr Sondra Hausner, are researching the religious practices and experiences of the expanding Nepali diaspora community living in the UK.  “Vernacular Religion: Varieties of Religiosity in the Nepali Diaspora” is funded by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society programme as a Major Research Award,  and aims to investigate the highly fluid and multifaceted religiosity of these communities.

South and Central Asia at the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library houses extensive collections of South Asian material. The Bodleian has one of the most important collections of Mughal paintings in the world and is the repository of some 8,700 Sanskrit manuscripts, the largest known collection outside the Indian sub-continent. The printed book collection covers the history and culture of South Asian regions from prehistory to the present day. The fields of language, literature, religion, history and politics are particularly strongly represented.

The University’s libraries and museums hold extensive collections relating to Central Asia, including the Bodleian library’s collection of books in Iranian languages of Central Asia, Turkish and the Turkic languages of Central Asia, Caucasian languages such as Armenian and Georgian, and other Asiatic languages.

South Asia Student Societies

The Oxford Majlis Asian Society is the second oldest student society at the University and the oldest Asian student society in the world. It brings together students from all over Asia, the Middle East, Iran, Central Asia, China and the Far East. Former members and Presidents include Benazir Bhutto, Manmohan Singh, Indira Gandhi, and K.P.S. Menon.

The Oxford Society for the Caspian and Central Asia (TOSCCA) was set up by Oxford academics in 2003 to promote the study of historical and contemporary Central Asia in Oxford and to bring together visiting students and scholars from the region with their colleagues in Oxford University. Sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the society encompasses the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, as well as their relations with neighbouring countries and regions like Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Xinjiang in northwest China.