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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

BA African Language and Culture

Programme Code: T508 BA/ALC Duration: 4 years Students will spend a period abroad depending on which African language they have chosen


2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAB-ABB
  • IB: 35 (665 at HL)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: AAABB
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: AAB
  • Irish LC: 340 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 4 4 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0
  • Euro Bacc: 80%
  • French Bacc: 14/20
  • German Abitur: 2.0
  • Italy DES: 80/100
  • Austria Mat: 2.0
  • Polish Mat: Overall 75% including 3 extended level subjects

Minimum Entry Requirements: No preliminary knowledge of the subject or the language is required, although we do look for ability to learn a language (e.g. language at A-level or equivalent). Applicants with non-standard qualifications may be invited for interview.

Subjects Preferred: No

Interview Policy: Candidates with 'non-standard' qualifications usually invited

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

The department houses the world’s largest concentration of scholars devoted to the study of African languages and cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. This collective expertise gives us an unparalleled capacity for teaching, learning and research.   The languages offered at the degree level (BA African Language and Culture) are Hausa and Swahili. Students of Swahili spend two terms of year three in Zanzibar and Kenya.   In the first year the programme's major component is the intensive study of Standard Swahili or Hausa, and two wide ranging courses on Culture in Africa, and Language in Africa.   The second year continues the study of Intermediate Swahili or Hausa, and, at the same time introduces the student to Swahili literature. Two additional courses are chosen from the list of approved optional courses.   The third year of the course is spent at an African university in Kenya or Tanzania, where students study Swahili in its context, and write an extended essay on a suitable topic of choice during that year.   In the final year study of language and literature is continued at the advanced level. In addition, the freedom to select two other appropriate units from the list of options gives students the opportunity of specializing in a field of particular interest.
Language degrees are four-year degrees, but students pay reduced fees for the language year abroad.  More information on tuition fees.
The year abroad for students of Hausa is currently under review and may not be available to students beginning their degree in 2012 and beyond.



Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

The two major languages available for this degree are Hausa and Swahili, other languages may be taken as part of the degree (see List of Optional Courses). Students must take 4 course units each year according to the syllabus.

Students must pass at least three course units in order to proceed to the following year, including any core courses.

Students must take a course for the year for which it is intended. Occasionally exceptions can be made in consultation with the Undergraduate Tutor and the approval of the Associate Dean.

Year 1
Core Module
Compulsory Modules
Open Option

Choose a related module from another department

Year 2
Core Module
Compulsory Module
Compulsory Module
Open Option

Choose a module from the list of optional modules or an open option.

Year 3: Year abroad

Please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Year 4
Compulsory Module
Compulsory Modules

Choose modules to the value of 2 units from the list of options

Open Option

Choose a module from the list of optional modules or an open option.

List of Optional Modules

Before selecting a module, student's must first check that the module is at the correct level. They must also ensure that they meet any pre-requisites. Normally students are not allowed to take a module outside of the years for which it is intended, although occasionally exceptions can be made in consultation with the Undergraduate tutor and/or the Associate Dean. Note that the list of options includes both culture modules and language modules. Students may take modules in another African language.

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

The third year of the BA Swahili and Another Subject or BA African Language and Culture is spent in Kenya and Tanzania at the following institutions where students are taught by experienced local lecturers and guest speakers, with oversight by SOAS Swahili Year Abroad Convenor. Students are also taken on local tours of places of cultural and historical interest at little or no additional cost. Courses run from September to May of the following year and involve 20 to 25 hours of instruction per week. While the syllabus differs somewhat from one institution to the other, the prime focus throughout is on enhancing the students’ reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in Modern Standard Swahili, as well as knowledge of the local varieties of Swahili language, culture and society. 

Term 1: Zanzibar State University (Tanzania)

Term 2: Kenyatta University (Kenya)

Term 3: Students are free to spend Term 3 anywhere in east Africa but there will be no teaching during that term.  

During Term 3 students are expected to write an ISP (Independent Study Project) of 3500 words in Swahili, on a subject of their choice. The essay must be sent to SOAS Swahili Convenor by the last Friday of Term 3.

In order to be admitted to the final year of their degree students will need to have passed the assessments at the year abroad institution, and to have attained a pass grade on their ISP which will be marked by SOAS Swahili Year Abroad Convenor. Students will be encouraged to use feedback to revise and prepare the essay for possible publication.

Students who fail the year abroad examinations or fail to submit their ISPs are deemed to have failed the year abroad.

For general advice on tuition fees, travel arrangements, health and insurance issues see the SOAS Registry Guidelines on the Language Year Abroad.

The SOAS Arabic Section arranges year abroad meetings and briefing sessions where second year students are informed in detail about the year abroad locations and have the chance to meet and consult with returning students.

In determining the safety of year abroad locations SOAS is guided by the relevant Travel Advice published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During their stay abroad it is recommended that students subscribe to the relevant FCO website .

In the final (4th) year study of language and literature is continued at the advanced level. In addition, the freedom to select two other appropriate units from the list of options gives students the opportunity of specializing in a field of particular interest.

Language degrees are four-year degrees, but students pay reduced fees for the language year abroad.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching is normally provided by lecture or seminar and students are required to attend such classes. Most courses involve a 50-minute lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


As a graduate who specialised in the continent of Africa, you will have gained competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature and culture (which can include literature, film, music, art and religion) of various parts of Africa. Graduates leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in both business and the public sector. These include written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.

Students from the Africa department have found work in a variety of professions including education, media and publishing.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

Amnesty International
Barclays Global Investors
Basler Afrika Bibliographien
BBC Radio 4
Christian Aid
Dragon Tiger
Financial Times
Kensington and Chelsea College
Loughborough University
MDS Transportation Consultants
National Cohesion and Integration Commission
Norman Carr Safaris
Save the Children
The Africa Report
World Challenge

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:

Head of Corporate Governance
Company Director
Programme Officer
Media and Communications Lecturer
Food and Beverage Manager
Expedition Planning Manager
Volunteer Event Coordinator
Art worker

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

SOAS has a really good reputation and I learned as much from my peers as I did from my tutors.

Frances Moffett-Kouadio