The Department of History at the National University of Singapore offers degrees by research and dissertation at both the MA and PhD levels. The scope for research is extensive and the interests and backgrounds of the supervising teaching staff are broad and cosmopolitan. Fluency in English is essential, as all work must be presented in that language, but for graduate studies the Department encourages and supports the use of research materials in other languages, especially regional languages.

The Department is particularly strong in Southeast Asian studies. The academic staff includes specialists working on Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. However there are other faculty members who can also supervise research in Chinese or Japanese history, as well as selected topics in European, American and military history, history of art, business, science and technology. An idea of the scope of the Department may be gained from this list of the department's faculty members and their specialities. You can also take a look at the topics our graduate students engage in.

The University's Central Library has extensive holdings on Southeast Asia written in English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spanish. There is also a very large microfilm collection containing archival materials from the National Archives in the United Kingdom (previously Public Record Office) and from other European and American collections. Students at the University can also use the library of the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Singapore National Archives.

The University operates a generous, but highly competitive, scholarship program that covers tuition and living costs for students doing graduate studies in Singapore. Students from non-English speaking countries must attain a minimum TOEFL score of 600 to qualify for scholarship consideration.

Theses are written in English, and students entering the university are expected to have a reasonable command of the English language. Normally entering graduate students are expected to achieve a TOEFL score of 600, although students with a lower score may be admitted on a case-by-case basis. Remedial English training is available for students who need assistance.


The maximum period of candidature for students is 60 months for MA and students must spend a minimum of eighteen (18) months in Singapore.

Students are required to complete the following:
• HY6101 Historiography: Theory & Archive;
• HY6770 Graduate Research Seminar;
• 4 other modules;
• Pass all components of Qualifying Exam (QE);
• A thesis of not more than 80,000 words; and
• Oral examination on the subject matter of the thesis after submission of thesis.

At least 75% of the total modular credits (MCs) requirements must be at level 5000 or 6000. Students are to read no more than 1 level 4000 module, subject to the approval of the department. The coursework requirements includes HY6770 Graduate Research Seminar that will be graded on a “satisfactory”/”unsatisfactory” basis.

Qualifying Examination

A PhD student will, as part of our PhD programme, have to take and pass a PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) which comprises the following:

  • a comprehensive examination (CE)
  • the submission of a 30- to 50-page thesis proposal
  • an oral defence of the student's thesis proposal before an Examination Panel / Thesis Committee

The comprehensive examination (CE) tests the general competence of the student in his discipline(s) or field(s), whereas the oral defense of the PhD thesis proposal ensures that the student is prepared to embark on his thesis research.

Before being allowed to take the QE, a student must have:

  • passed a minimum of five modules with at least two at level 6000
  • a minimum Cumulative Average Point (CAP) of 3.50 and
  • where applicable, obtain satisfactory grades (at least grade C) in the Centre for English Language Communication graduate English modules at intermediate level.


Students Admitted From August 2009 

Students are required to pass the PhD QE by the end of the 24th month of their candidature – two attempts are permitted.


There are 2 comprehensive examinations:

1. Oral – in candidate’s main thesis research area – as distinguished from “thesis topic”

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

2. Written – in a research area or sub-field other than the candidate’s thesis research area, will be determined by the Department/Program in consultation with the candidate

Duration: normally 24 hours

The Examination Panel/Thesis Committee may set the number of
questions for each examination.

It is recommended that both CEs are set close in date to each other.

After the subject areas of the CE have been determined, the student is to draw up a reading list for each examination that should comprise the primary sources and major studies in the subject area.
Last update: 22 March 2012

The reading lists will be vetted by the candidate’s thesis committee (or examination committee, if applicable). The approved reading lists will form the basis of the comprehensive examinations.


The student is required to submit a thesis proposal which should include a literature review and his proposed area of contribution at least 2 weeks before the examination date.


The oral examination usually lasts 2 hours.

The student is required to make an oral presentation which last 15 to 20 minutes but should be no longer than 30 minutes.

The candidate should:

    • give a brief overview of the thesis
    • discuss key findings and new contributions made to the field
    •  justify methodology and theoretical framework used
    • analyse implications of study for future research, policy and other applications.
  • This is followed by followed by an oral defence/open discussion where the student is expected to answer satisfactorily any questions on the subject matter of his/his research thesis and related subjects.