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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

BA Social Anthropology

Programme Code: L600 BA/SA Duration: 3 years - single honours degree


2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAA-AAB
  • IB: 37 (666 at HL)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: AAA
  • Irish LC: 360 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 4 5 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0
  • Euro Bacc: 85%
  • French Bacc: 15/20
  • German Abitur: 1.5
  • Italy DES: 85/100
  • Austria Mat: 1.5
  • Polish Mat: Overall 80% including 3 extended level subjects

Minimum Entry Requirements: Mature students may be considered on the basis of alternative qualifications and experience. We do not require applicants to have particular disciplinary backgrounds.

Subjects Preferred: None

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

Start of programme: September

Social Anthropology is an academic discipline that in many respects straddles the social sciences and humanities. It both draws from and contributes to such disciplines as philosophy, linguistics and literature, as well as sociology and history.

The full title of the department of Anthropology and Sociology emphasises the range of our concern with Third World studies, from more remote communities to more recent urban development, avoiding any arbitrary distinction that may be implied by reference to either anthropology or sociology alone.

The BA Social Anthropology teaches the methods of social anthropological investigation, emphasising the detailed study of multiple, interwoven areas of social life, through long participation and linguistic familiarity. Students have a great deal of scope to tailor their programme of study according to their own interests.


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 take 12 module units over a three-year degree, 4 units in each year.

Students take core or compulsory modules which are designed to build up a knowledge of the history of the discipline and relevant theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects. They can additionally choose from a range of optional modules.

Year 1:

Single-subject students usually take 3 compulsory introductory units and an open option (i.e. a module in a subject or language other than those named in the student’s chosen degree title).

  1. Introduction to Social Anthropology (1 unit)
  2. Voice and Place (1 unit)
  3. Social Theory (1 unit)
  4. 1 approved unit in a language or other discipline

Year 2:

Single-subject students take 2 compulsory units and 2 full or 4 half units from a list of available options, or may decide to do a open option module. The modules in this year are more advanced theoretically and offer a wide choice of ethnographies.

  1. Theory in Anthropology (1 unit)
  2. Two of the following ethnography courses (0.5 unit)
    Ethnography of a selected region - China Term 2
    Ethnography of a selected region - Japan Term 1
    Ethnography of a selected region - South Asia Term 1
    Ethnography of a selected region - South East Asia Term 2
    Ethnography of a selected region - Near & Middle East Term 2
    Ethnography of a selected region - East Africa Term 1
    Ethnography of a selected region - West Africa Term 2

    These 0.5 unit regional ethnography modules are designed (in the second year) to be combined - according to student interest and module availability - with a second regional ethnography module taught in a different term to form a compulsory full unit of ethnography modules (e.g., Japan and China; South Asia and Southeast Asia: East Africa and West Africa), or (in the third year to be taken as a free-standing option.
  3. 1 unit (or 2 half units) from Year 2 Optional Units List
  4. Either
    1 further unit (or 2 half units) from Year 2 Optional Units List
    1 approved unit in a language or other discipline

Year 3:

The theoretical modules in this year are yet more advanced, and offer a wide range of themes. Single-subject students take Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society, and 2.5 units of optional modules or 1.5 units and a 'open option' course. 

  1. Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society (1.5 units)
  2. 1.5 units (in total) from the Year 3 Optional Units List
    1 further unit (or 2 half units) from Year 3 Optional Units List
    1 approved unit in a language or other discipline
Year 2 Option Units List
Year 3 Option Units List

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad


Teaching & Learning

The modules are taught by lectures and group discussions, the two often being taken by different teachers to provide a variety of angles on the subject. Students become active in class through their reading and essay-writing as well as their participation in discussion groups. Ethnographic studies of China, Japan, South East Asia, South Asia, the Near and Middle East, West Africa and East Africa are available.

Pre Entry Reading

  • J La Fontaine, What is Social Anthropology, Edward Arnold, 1985
    An introduction explaining the scope, methods and aims of social anthropology and clears up some popular misconceptions, as well as providing a practical guide to available courses and the kinds of jobs open to a qualified anthropologist.
  • M Carrithers, Why humans have cultures: explaining anthropology and social diversity, OUP, 1992
  • A Cheater, Social Anthropology: an alternative introduction, Routledge 1989, 2nd edition
  • E R Leach, Social Anthropology, Fontana Masterguides (1976)
    A personalised introduction, giving one anthropologist's view of his subject and leading the reader through theory; humanity and animality; kinship; debt; power relationships; marriage and alliances thus formed; cosmology
  • I M Lewis, Social Anthropology in Perspective, Penguin 1976, 2nd edition
    Clear introduction to modern social anthropology as a comparative study of the beliefs and customs of alien societies as well as those more familiar native communities. The underlying theme is the social setting and cultural expression of identity.
  • D Pocock, Understanding Social Anthropology, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder and Stoughton, 1975
    This book introduces anthropology by promoting an awareness of the assumed notions that each one of us has about social values, and encouraging a consciousness and questioning of such values through the use of anthropological approaches and data.
  • J Hendry, An Introduction to Social Anthropology: other people's worlds, Macmillan 1999
    A good general introduction with useful explanation of jargon and clarification of many of the subject's main themes.


A degree from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS will develop your understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised. Skills gained during your degree will transfer well to areas such as information and technology, government service, teaching or work in the media and tourism. This is in addition to your detailed subject knowledge, which will vary according to the regional and theoretical focus of your degree. Your degree will equip you with a set of specific skills, including: analytical and critical skills; ability to gather, assess and interpret data; a high level of cultural awareness; and the ability to solve problems.

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

Home Office
Barclays Wealth International
Department for Work and Pensions
The Random House Group
Partnerships in Health Information
Kyushu University
Menas Borders
Lamont Design Company
United Nations System Staff College
Ethical Media Group
he Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
Youth Offending Team
Project for Street Children
Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary OrganisationsInternational School of Tianjin
Health Improvement Project Zanzibar (Hipz)
United Nations ESCAP
British Red Cross Society
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Victoria and Albert Museum
War Child

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
(Fast Stream) Civil Servant
Adult Parliament Coordinator
Africa Director, Social & Public Research
Assistant Private Secretary, Minister of State
Curator (Africa) Museum
Development Administrator
Freelance copywriter
Head, Peace and Security
Lecturer and Arabic Flagship Language Coordinator
Community Adviser
Policy and Projects Officer
Project Manager
Senior Consultant

Other recent SOAS career choices have included commerce and banking, government service, the police and prison service, social services and health service administration. Opportunities for graduates with trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities also arise in education, local government, libraries and museums.

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

A Student's Perspective

SOAS creates a unique atmosphere that I have never tasted before. I truly love the SOAS community, or what I termed anthropologically as ‘SOAS-ism’.

Hang Wang