Master of Arts in Religious Studies (AMRS) – Program for Theravada Buddhism Scholars

The Theravada Buddhism Initiative AMRS Program

With the support of a generous gift from Mr. Jun Zhou, the Divinity School has developed several projects to advance the study of Theravada Buddhism. In addition to hosting master teachers as guest faculty at the Divinity School, the initiative also seeks to bring scholars of the Theravada tradition to the Divinity School for training in the academic study of religion through the Masters of Arts in Religious Studies Program (AMRS).

Program Length   

The AMRS course of study requires completion of 9 courses. It can be completed in one (1) year on a full-time basis, or longer if done part-time. (Students normally take up to 3 courses per term.) Applicants who submit applications by April 15 will be considered for matriculation in the autumn quarter, beginning with the Academic English Pre-Matriculation Program, which runs August 9-30 or August 30-September 20. 


Program Requirements

Successful completion of a minimum of 9 courses, including DVSC 30400– Introduction to the Study of Religion, and one course in two of the three faculty committees. 

One-hour oral examination based on a paper written for any class.


Students at the Divinity School may take courses not only in the Divinity School, but throughout the University of Chicago. A full listing of courses related to the study of Buddhism may be found here. A course schedule  for the Divinity School is available here. Additional courses at the University of Chicago may be viewed here.




Application Materials

  • Divinity School Application for Graduate Admission
  • Personal Statement, including a statement of the applicant’s interest in and knowledge of Theravada Buddhism
  • Academic Transcripts
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • Current Resume or CV
  • Application fee: $75 (waiver available)


International students: TOEFL or IELTS score is required. See our International Admissions page for more information. 


Financial Information   

Students admitted as part of the Theravada Buddhism initiative are eligible for financial aid from the Divinity School. 

Eligible students may also apply for Federal Student Aid (student loans & work-study) by completing and submitting the FAFSA. Our school code is 001774.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Which classes will be taught in the AMRS for the Theravada Buddhism Scholars?

All courses in the Divinity School and at the University are open to AMRS students. No courses are specific to this program. Of particular interest to students studying Theravada Buddhism may be Professor John Holt’s courses (he will be a visiting professor), as well as Pali text reading offered by Venerable Dr. Dhammadipa Sak and courses on Abhidhamma, ecumenical Buddhism, and Comparative Studies in Pali and Agama texts. 

  1. Who will teach these classes? May I contact to them? Do I need to contact to them before I apply?

In addition to the guest scholars listed above, other faculty involved in Buddhist studies are listed at You are welcome to contact them, of course, but you do not need to contact them before applying.

  1. I do not know Pali language. Do I need to have this language before I apply? Do these classes will be taught in entirely English?

All courses are taught in English. No prior language experience is required.


  1. Can this program lead to a PhD? Which universities concentrate on this sub-field?

Students in the AMRS program may apply to PhD programs, however they are not eligible to apply for the Divinity School’s PhD program (which requires an MA or MDiv for  matriculation). AMRS students may transfer into the MA or MDiv program with the approval of the director of the respective program.

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