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Doctoral School

Postgraduate Research: How to apply

Candidates should normally have a good Master's degree in a relevant subject. In some cases prior knowledge of a language may be necessary or advisable.

Applicants are also required to submit a brief research proposal. This should include a preliminary title for the research project, identify the main area of research (e.g. geographical region, time-period, language), comment critically on the existing literature and indicate likely sources for the research. Specific proposal requirements can be sought from the Department in which you are applying.

The deadline for research degree applications is 30 June. It is important to apply well before the start of the academic year in which you want to enrol to allow us time to process your application. If you are applying for funding earlier deadlines may apply.

Guidance for Applying for MPhil/PhD

To apply for an MPhil/PhD at SOAS we require a complete application form. Applications are not considered complete and will not be assessed by academic selectors if they are missing any of the following items:

  1. A formal application form 
  2. A supporting statement 
  3. A research proposal 
  4. Full academic transcripts of your College/University studies to date (with translations if necessary) 
  5. Evidence of your English language proficiency 
  6. Two academic references

It is also of benefit to have an up-to-date CV with your application.

Upon receipt of an application, the Doctoral School Section, Registry will email you to let you know either that your application is complete and has gone forward for consideration by the Department, or that your application is incomplete and is missing one or more of the above elements.

1. The Application Form

The online application form

2. The Supporting Statement

This should be a covering letter that explains your motivation for applying to SOAS. It is useful here to outline your skills and experiences that will be relevant to your time at SOAS and how you will perform as a student at the School. You should aim to write about a page but if you wish to write more you are free to do so.

3. The Research Proposal

The research proposal is a vital part of the application and will be studied in detail by the academic selectors. The proposal should be around 1,000-2,000 words (specific Departmental requirements can be found on their own section of the SOAS website) and include an outline of your proposed research topic, the research method, and the source materials you intend to use.

It is often beneficial (although not mandatory) to make contact with an academic at SOAS who shares your research interests prior to the submission of your application. Departmental staff can be found and contacted through their departments.

4. Academic Transcripts

You will need to include transcripts of your previous studies with your online application. These can be uploaded as scanned copies and should cover each year of your studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level (or overseas equivalent). Original transcripts are not required at the initial stages of application but may be requested in the event that an offer is made.

5. English Language Proficiency

Details of acceptable English language tests

6. Academic References

If you have been in education in the past three years we will require two academic references from your most recent place of study. If you are currently studying for a Masters Degree (or equivalent) then we require two academic references from your Masters tutors/lecturers. If you have been out of education for three years we can consider references from an earlier time or from your current place of work but you should attempt to source referees who can provide relevant recommendations to the course of study you are applying for. References from family members or friends are not acceptable.

References can be accepted in the following formats: 

  • By hardcopy – the reference should be on headed paper in a sealed, signed envelope supplied directly by the referee or the applicant. Please note that opened hardcopy references supplied by applicants cannot be accepted; 
  • By email – the reference must be submitted directly by the referee to dsadmissions@soas.ac.uk and come from an official/institution email account. Emailed references from free-use accounts such as hotmail/yahoo/gmail are not acceptable. References forwarded by the applicant by email are not acceptable;
  • Via the online application system – when you make your application online you are invited to provide email contact details of your referees. Referees will be immediately invited to submit their reference online. Again, references from free-use accounts such as hotmail/yahoo/gmail are not acceptable so please do not provide personal email addresses for your referees. If your referee does not have an institution email account then a reference should be provided in hardcopy format and sent by post.