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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

BA Swahili and...

Programme Code: See May be Combined With Duration: Combined Honours - 4 years


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2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAB - ABB
  • A Level language preferred
  • IB: 35 (6/6/5)
  • 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: A foreign language at A level, or equivalent, is preferred

Interview Policy: Candidates with ‘non-standard’ qualifications usually invited

Swahili, which belongs to the Bantu family of languages, is spoken as a mother-tongue on the east coast of Africa from the southern part of Somalia to the northern areas of Msumbiji (Mozambique) including the islands of Lamu, Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and the Comoros.

Spoken extensively in Tanzania, Kenya, some parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo, Swahili has a long literary tradition, expressed in earlier centuries in the Arabic script, and is rich in oral literature. It is the national language of Tanzania and an official language of Kenya. 

This 4-year degree combines the study of the language of Swahili with another language or discipline. The range of expertise in SOAS with regard to languages and literatures of other regions is unique in UK institutions. Along with proven excellence in other disciplines, such as religious studies, anthropology, art and archaeology, and history, this offers students an unparalleled range of options in choosing their second subject of study. 


May be combined with

* Taught at University College London (UCL); apply to UCL only
** Taught at King’s College London


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.

Students must take 4 course units each year. Over the four years students must pass at least 8 units in Swahili (this includes the course Language in Africa) and at least 5 units in the other subject.

Students must pass at least three course units in order to proceed to the following year. Students must pass Swahili I in order to proceed to year 2. Students must pass Swahili IIA in order to proceed to year 3.

Students may take open option units in a joint degree as long as the required number of units for each of the named subjects is passed at the end of the degree.

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 Associate Dean.

Year 1
Core Course
Compulsory Course
Other Subject

Students take 2 units in the second subject.

Year 2
Core Course
Compulsory Course
Other Subject

Students take 2 units in the second subject.

Year 3: Year abroad

Please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Year 4
Swahili Course

Take one Swahili course unit

Optional Course

Choose a course from the list of optional courses

Other Subject

Students take 2 units in the second subject.

List of Optional Courses

Before selecting a course, student's must first check that the course is at the correct level. They must also ensure that they meet any pre-requisites.

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

Language teaching is mostly in small tutorial groups; tapes and language laboratory facilities are available for formal teaching and self-study. Non-language units are taught by lecture and seminar. Students are assessed by a combination of written examination (and oral for language units) and coursework, including essays and translations.

SOAS Library

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.


Students who study Swahili at SOAS develop a wide range of transferable skills such as research, analysis, oral and written communication skills.

Choosing to study a joint degree programme will increase the breadth of your knowledge, and will develop additional skills with which to further your studies of the African continent, or to make comparative study with other areas. Swahili may be combined with a huge range of other disciplines. For more information on the extra skills you will gain from your second subject, please see the relevant departmental page.

Students from the Africa department have chosen non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam; others have found work in education, the media, or in publishing department.

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

A Student's Perspective

I study with students from all over the world and it’s refreshing to hear their ideas. There isn’t such a thing as a typical SOAS student – because we’re such a varied bunch! but I think we all share a desire to understand the world around us and proactively work to change it for the better

Clare Amaladoss