The Study of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon at UVa

The study of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon has been an integral part of the humanities and social sciences at UVa for more than thirty-five years. The Tibetan Buddhist Studies program maintains an international reputation for its graduate and undergraduate studies, its overseas programs, its innovative digital scholarship, and its ongoing promotion of research in Tibetan culture and society.



The Department of Religious Studies at UVa houses one of the most robust Buddhist Studies programs in North America. Our Buddhist Studies faculty is in fact the largest of any public university in North America, with fully six tenured or tenure-track faculty engaged in the study of Buddhist traditions within the Department of Religious Studies alone, and at least another four throughout the wider University community. UVa is a public university located in the one of the fastest growing regions of the United States, the Southeast. It is classified as a RU/VH (Research University, very high research activity) university by the Carnegie Foundation, and as such maintains an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. As part of a public university, the Department of Religious Studies is committed to non-denominational, non-sectarian teaching and research of the religions of the world. This commitment is integral to the Buddhist Studies program as well.

Of the six Buddhist studies faculty in the Department of Religious Studies, two, David Germano and Kurtis Schaeffer, specialize in Tibetan Buddhism. Collectively Germano and Schaeffer teach hundreds of undergraduate students per year in courses dedicated to Tibet and Tibetan religion, and typically supervise over twenty graduate students engaged in advanced research on Tibet.

Graduate Program

The graduate program in Tibetan Buddhist studies at UVa is housed within the Department of Religious Studies, though graduate students take advantage of faculty from the Departments of Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Literatures, History, Political Science and elsewhere during their research. For the past three decades the UVa Tibetan Buddhist studies program has trained a large number of innovative and successful scholars of Tibetan Buddhism in North America. Our graduates teach at major colleges and universities around the continent, including Columbia University, Florida State University, Northwestern University, Rice University, the University of Michigan, and The College of William and Mary.


The Tibetan Buddhist studies graduate program emphasizes expertise in literary and spoken Tibetan language, thoroughgoing knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, literature, and history, and field research among Tibetan Buddhist communities. With these skills in hand, graduate students engage in primary research on topics that advance our knowledge of Tibetan culture by integrating persistent questions in the study of Buddhism and methodologies drawn from the History of Religions into detailed investigations of uniquely Tibetan formulations of Buddhism. UVa houses one of the best collections of Tibetan-language literature outside of Tibet, and thus provides graduate students with the literary resources necessary for in-depth study.

Our graduate program generally has between 15-25 students enrolled at any point, and has been one of main programs for studying Tibetan Buddhism at the graduate level over the past three decades.

Graduate students can get Masters or Doctorates in History of Religions with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism or Bonpo studies. Other graduate programs in the Department, such as Ethics, Religions and Literature, Historical Studies, or Scripture, Interpretation and Practice, can also be used to pursue a Tibetan Buddhism focus, though most Tibet-focused graduate students work within the framework of History of Religions. Students in this program can focus on Tibetan and Indian Buddhism, or Tibetan and Chinese religions. The standard framework is six courses in Buddhism, three in a secondary religion, two in theory, two electives, and two relevant Asian languages.