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

BA History of Art

Programme Code: V350 BA/HAr Duration: 3 years


2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: ABB-BBB
  • IB: 33 (555 at HL)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: AABBB
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: ABB
  • Irish LC: 320 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 4 4 4 (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: Mature students may be considered on the basis of alternative qualifications and experience.


This programme is an unrivalled opportunity to study the visual arts, architecture and material culture of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In the first year, students are introduced to the art and archaeology of different regions. They also receive theoretical and methodological training to prepare them for the study of Asian and African art. In years two and three students broaden and deepen their knowledge and have the chance to specialise in particular regions or themes. An emphasis is placed on training students’ visual memory through the study of images. Students are also provided with a critical introduction to the creative and cultural industries.

The Department of the History of Art and Archaeology contains some of the world’s leading experts in Asian and African art history and archaeology, whose ground-breaking research informs and is informed by their teaching. Students benefit from the unparalleled knowledge and enthusiasm of staff. As members of the School of Arts, they profit from the insights of scholars and students studying the Music, Film and Media of Asia, Africa and the Middle East in historical and contemporary contexts. They can also select from courses in other departments, taking advantage of SOAS’s unrivalled expertise in the languages, history, religions and cultures of Asia and Africa.

A degree from the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology provides students with expertise in the History of Art and/or Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our graduates work in arts, culture and heritage roles, including in galleries, museums, archives, conservation, publishing and arts administration. The large portfolio of transferable skills they acquire enables them to forge careers in a range of other fields across the world. Many graduates decide to pursue postgraduate study in the History of Art and Archaeology or a related discipline.

Whether a student sits for the BA History of Art or the BA History of Art and Archaeology depends on the courses they select in their second and third years. See the ‘Structure’ tab for details. The BA History of Art and Archaeology can be combined with another subject to form a two-subject degree.


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 structure and contents of courses reflect the importance given to conceptual and methodological clarity, and to the independent interests of students. Particular importance is given to the training of student’s visual memory through the study of visual images.

One purpose of the introductory year is to provide a basis for the student's selection of courses in the second and third years. In the first year, students must take three compulsory first year Art and Archaeology course units, including four half-unit courses introducing the arts of Asia and Africa, and a core course unit introducing theoretical issues about how and why art and archaeology are studied and discussed. In addition, students must take a fourth ‘open option’ course unit in another department.

In the first year, students are normally required to take courses to the value of four course units as follows:

  • Theory in Art History and Archaeology (core)
  • Great Works: Recordings, Objects, Films (compulsory)
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of Africa
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of East Asia
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of the Near and Middle East
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of South and South East Asia

  • A fourth ‘open option’ course unit
(students are required to choose a fourth course unit from another department).

Students who wish to take the BA History of Art and Archaeology must in their second and third years accumulate at least four units from the courses designated as having
archaeological content (selected from the list of second and year courses listed below). Other courses can be selected from the History of Art programme.

Any student who passes at least four units from the courses designated as having archaeological content will automatically be placed in the History of Art and Archaeology programme, while those who do not will be placed in the History of Art programme.

The selection of units in the third year is normally intended to develop the chosen specialisations of the second year. In addition, all third year students are encouraged to write a 10,000 word essay (on a subject of their choice) which counts as one unit.

Year 1
Years 2 and 3
Year 3


Teaching & Learning


SOAS is exceptional in the regional expertise it offers with regard to languages and literatures, religious studies, history and anthropology. Students have access to an unrivalled range of art-historical and archaeological resources:

  • Main Library of the School
  • The Courtauld Institute
  • The Institute of Archaeology

Teaching & Learning

All 1st year course units involve a weekly lecture and tutorial; in the 2nd and 3rd year, where student numbers may be lower, a seminar may replace the lecture.

For most course units, assessment involves course work and an unseen examination.
In the 1st year, course work entails short, concentrated pieces of work; in the 2nd and 3rd years, course work emphasis shifts to longer papers.

In the final year, students are normally required to complete an independent study project on a subject of their choice.

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.


A BA in History of Art from SOAS gives graduates the essential skills needed to work in a range of arts related jobs such as galleries, museums, archives, conservation, publishing, arts administration, heritage management.  Students also gain highly valued transferrable skills that can be applied to other types of professions.  These skills include: research skills, written and oral communication skills, visual awareness and the ability to select and organise information.

Careers include employment in museums, galleries, conservation organisations, commercial galleries, auction houses and art journalism. Other areas include the heritage industry, specialist travel companies, NGOs with cultural programmes such as UNESCO, UNOP, ICOMOS and the World Monuments Fund. It also gives access to a range of jobs available for any humanities degree graduate such as teaching and the media.

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

A Student's Perspective

I really wanted to study History of Art and I knew that was my calling. After research, I found out that SOAS was a prestigious school with notable alumni and also that I could study History of Art and Law as a joint degree, which is perhaps the only school in the world that offers this at the BA level.

Guillaume Vandame