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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Key Facts

  • In the 2014 REF more than 80% of the Department’s research was judged either world-leading or internationally excellent, the third highest proportion of any institution researching the history, practice and theory of art in the UK.
  • In 2014 the Department received a donation of £15 million from the Alphawood Foundation to further the understanding and preservation of Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture in Southeast Asia – one of the biggest ever donations to a UK university.
  • 92% of students are satisfied with their teaching, according to the National Student Survey 2013-14. 95% think that staff are good at explaining things.
  • Most students feel that their communication skills have improved and that they have gained the confidence to tackle unfamiliar problems.  
  • 9 out of 10 students believe that library and IT resources meet their requirements.
  • Alongside its undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes the Department offers a prestigious Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art in partnership with the V&M Museum and the British Museum, and a number of Specialist Art Short Courses.
  • The Department is located in the Brunei Gallery on the Russell Square campus. The Gallery hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary and historical art from Asia, Africa and the Middle East – often in collaboration with the Department’s staff.
  • The Department collaborates with leading museums and galleries in the art world, on initiatives such as Illuminating Objects, an internship programme for PhD students.
  • A range of scholarships is available for students wishing to study in the Department

UG Student Profile

Beatriz Cifuentes: BA History of Art/Archaeology and Tibetan

The lectures on Tibet and those on History of Art are incredibly enriching, as they complement each other, granting the student a very thorough understanding of the artistic tendencies, archaeological findings and historical happenings of the areas being studied. Furthermore, when you attend SOAS you do not only learn during your classes, but also while you engage in fascinating conversations with the diverse student body.

Beatriz Cifuentes, BA History of Art/Archaeology and Tibetan
Read Beatriz's full profile

PG Student Profile

  Elizabeth Kelly  

Studying Islamic Art History at SOAS has been one of the most engrossing, pleasurable and rewarding pursuits I have undertaken….The SOAS academics I encountered are exemplary. Their scholarship, first hand experiences and enthralling anecdotes brought their subjects to life. Within this rich and rigorous environment, also supported by access to other SOAS departments and the numerous co-curricular resources available in London, it is inevitable that students strive for excellence.

Elizabeth Kelly, MA History of Art and Architecture of the Islamic Middle East

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Our Head of Department Says

Anna Contadini

We are a unique community of students and scholars interested in the arts and cultures of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and their global diasporas. From performance masquerade in West Africa to the visual cultures of China and Japan; from the archaeology of Morocco to the temples of South East Asia; from the sophisticated book cultures of South Asia and the Middle East to questions of identity in museums, our degree programmes cover a plurality of themes and theoretical approaches. Our location in central London, surrounded by museums, galleries and cultural centres, contributes to an unforgettable student experience.

Professor Anna Contadini

Our Strengths

The Department of the History of Art and Archaeology is unique in its coverage of the arts, archaeology, architecture and material culture of Asia, Africa and the Middle East from ancient times to the present day. No other university in the world offers such a range of teaching or such a concentration of research specialists in these areas.

The Department is renowned as an alternative voice to Eurocentric art history, challenging the categories often taken for granted in the study of other cultures. Conventional distinctions between archaeology and art history, or historical past and present, often dissolve, and the Department is at the forefront in encouraging new approaches attentive to local specificities.

As part of the School of Arts the Department fosters cross-disciplinary enquiry to explore parallels between artistic and musical aesthetics or the translatability of theoretical approaches developed in media studies.

Forthcoming Events



If you are interested in studying in the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology contact the Student Recruitment Office:

Email: study@soas.ac.uk
Telephone: +44(0)20 7898 4034

For other enquiries contact the Arts & Humanities Faculty:

Email: artsandhumanities@soas.ac.uk
Telephone: +44(0)20 7898 4020

Follow the School of Arts on Twitter and Facebook:

Twitter: @SOASArts