Common Administrative Organizational Models

There are two common administrative models for organizing Asian Studies on a campus: a department and an interdisciplinary program.

If you have already established an Asian studies department or program and are considering new ways to organize your coursework, proceed to the next Pathways page “Developing A Curricular Pathway: Majors, Minors, and Certificates.”


A department is an academic unit with faculty appointments devoted to the study of a shared discipline or subject.  Members in a department specialize in different branches of the same subject, and they generally share the same research methodology.  Besides organizing a curriculum, a department also has practical functions.  It provides a home base for personnel decisions and a foundation for budgetary management.

One can argue that when Asian Studies (as an interdisciplinary topic) is organized into an administrative department, then Asia becomes the main subject of inquiry for those faculty. While individual faculty may be trained in more traditional disciplines that follow a specific research methodology (such as history, political science, or music), within an Asian Studies department, they are bound by a primary focus in Asia.

Personnel: A department first and foremost offers faculty members an institutional home. Hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions often start at the departmental level.

Operation: Departments tend to receive budgets for regular expenses such as administrative and secretarial support for general operations, supplies and equipment, and sometimes professional development such as conference travel, faculty research, and so forth. 

Curriculum: Departments offer degree programs serving majors and minors, and sometimes certificates and concentrations.  Courses in a department are directly tied to these degrees.

Degrees: Department can offer one or more majors and minors. Most required courses for the degrees are offered within the department.


What forms the core of a program is a collection of courses and students: a set of courses that lead to a specific degree (major or minor) or a certificate, and students who major or minor in what the program offers.  A program tends to be interdisciplinary, and members usually come from different disciplines (departments and other programs).  Each person comes from a more traditional field of research, such as political science, religious studies, arts and art history, literature, language, sociology, etc.  What binds them together is their interest in Asia—whether professionally or out of personal interests or engagement. 

Personnel: Faculty members are drawn from different departments; they are affiliates to the program.  In most cases, individuals are housed in departments but offer courses that serve both the home departments and affiliated programs.  Although there is a director, the program is not usually involved in personnel decisions, except in hiring part-time instructors.

Operation: The operating budgets for most programs tend to be smaller than departments, limiting the resources at their disposal.

Curriculum: Academic programs offer courses that supplement those curriculum that are traditionally offered in academic departments.  These courses may fulfill General Education requirements, serve as electives for certain departments and other programs, and of course fulfill these programs’ own degree requirements.

Degrees: Programs usually offer minors or certificates; with steady growth, demand from students, other constituencies, or curricular change, majors may be added.