BA Philosophy and Thai Studies

BA Philosophy and Thai Studies (University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Thai Studies was introduced at the University of Leeds in 2004. It enables students to develop advanced linguistic skills in Thai language and in-depth understanding of Thailand’s culture, religions, modern history and society. Thai Studies can be studied as a Single Honours Programme or as a Joint Honours Programme together with another subject, such as Philosophy, Chinese, Economics, Politics, Management or International Relations. No prior knowledge of Thai language is required, as the language courses take students from a beginner level to an advanced level. Students will develop all four language skills to a level that allows them to express and discuss complex topics in the Thai language, both in written and spoken form, by the time they graduate. Students spend the entire second year of their 4-year programme at a Thai university, pursuing intensive language studies and conducting research that is based on their specific interests. During their year abroad, students may also pursue internships at local schools, charities, museums, NGOs and orphanages, or spend time in a Thai monastery, participating in meditation courses or other monastic activities. The Joint Honours programme BA Philosophy and Thai Studies as taught in Leeds requires students to undertake on their Thai Studies side of their programme, six progressive courses on Thai language and culture, and in their third year they will attend a course on “The Making of Modern Thailand,” in which they investigate Thai historiography and how the Kingdom of Siam was transformed into the modern Thai nation state. In their first year, students will also have to attend the module “How to Think Clearly and Argue Well” which amongst other things enables them to develop the ability to reconstruct arguments in philosophical texts. At the same time, students can choose from a wide range of optional modules on Western and East Asian religions and philosophy, such as “Introduction to Religious and Philosophical Texts of East Asia,” “History of Modern Philosophy: Leibniz and Hume,” “Ancient Philosophy,” “Introduction to the Philosophy of Language” and “Buddhism: a Lived Tradition.” Even though students have to attend a number of compulsory courses as a consequence of their programme choice, Leeds’ BA Philosophy and Thai Studies allows a lot of flexibility in the choice of optional and discovery courses, where students can choose from long list of courses, tailoring their programme in accordance with their specific interests and career plans. In their final year of studies students are required to pursue a research project that allows them to make use of their knowledge, experience and skills that they have developed over the course of their studies.

Thus, a major objective of this programme is to enable students to develop inter-cultural awareness, in particular through their language studies, study of texts on philosophy, ethical questions, Thai religions and, of course, the year abroad. The in-depth study of Thai texts, such as on Thai discourses on abortion, human trafficking, the roles of women in Buddhism, and the Buddhist doctrines on rebirth and no-self, in the original language allows students not only to learn about non-Western ethics, identity constructions, rituals, nationalisms, religious practices and soteriology. It also enables them to reflect critically on Western cultures and values. Over the course of their studies, students will, repeatedly and with the help of a variety of different disciplines, examine issues of Western (mis)perceptions and constructions of Southeast Asian religions and cultures. These comparative elements of this programme help students to develop their skills in cultural awareness and critical self-reflection.

For more details on the programme go to


—Adcharawan Seeger (Teaching Fellow in Thai Language and Culture)