Know of any University degree programs in Early Buddhism / Pali?

I’m interested in going back to school to study early Buddhism and Pali, and struggling to find Universities offering degrees with this focus. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

(I have started studying Pali with OCBS)

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Harvard Divinity School should have an excellent Pali and Buddhism program.

Dharma Realm Buddhist University in California may have a Pali program, certainly a strong Sanskrit one. I know at least one Theravadin monk who is currently attending.

I am scheduled to teach a summer Pali intensive at Union Theological (part of Columbia U), but Union’s students gravitate more towards chaplaincy than academia.

(Sorry that these are only usa options. I should have asked where you were located. )


Sadly, early Buddhist studies have been on the decline for quite a while. That aside, a degree itself focused on early Buddhism is an unrealistic, and to my mind perhaps undesirable, pursuit. It might be better to start with general degrees in Buddhist Studies and gradually focus one’s research on early Buddhism at higher levels of study. But let’s park my views and opinions now :wink:

Besides Harvard, the MA in Buddhist Studies at the University of South Wales, which I did, leans more on the Pali tradition than on others—it was designed by Peter Harvey, not sure how it may have changed since I finished 5 years ago. It’s fully online. I’ve also heard good things about the University of Hong Kong and Shan State Buddhist University (in Myanmar, but I think it’s basically online now).

Harvard Divinity was on my list, but it is quite competitive. Always worth a shot :slight_smile: I did see DRBU is opening up a campus in Vancouver. I hadn’t heard of them before, so will look into that as well.

Thank you for the kind suggestions! :bowing_woman:

Thank you for the kind suggestions. I will look into these options. I appreciate your perspective on a more general focus to start – just don’t want to land myself in a Pali / EBT desert, as that’s where my main interest lies. I’m ideally looking for an MA that leads on to a PhD program, so trying to find a place with suitable potential advisors.

I have no idea how accurate or updated this website is but there is a fairly comprehensive list here. Even if the specialization is no longer offered, you should be able to find a faculty or two at each place to make inquiries. Most of them will probably be aligned towards Tibetan Buddhism and Mahayana but doesn’t hurt to check them out.

I did a Bachelor with Buddhist and Pāli College of Singapore, under Buddhist and Pāli University of Sri Lanka.

In general, if you’re taking an academic course, you’ll learn more than early Buddhism, but also less, because it’s not like they require you to read the suttas completely and test on that.

Best if you only wish to focus on Early Buddhism and Pāli is you read the suttas on your own and the various Pāli courses out there. And if you’re just looking for the paper qualifications, then any short and cheap course is good enough. For Buddhist and Pāli College of Singapore, the masters level doesn’t teaches Pāli so much I think, most of the learning is in the Diploma (1 year) and Degree (3 years).

This college in Thailand (The International Buddhist College) offers Early Buddhism, Pali studies (BA, MA, and PhD):