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Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

The Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia is part of the Faculty of Languages and Cultures and aims through teaching and research to cover a wide spectrum of the culture of China, and to cover to a more limited extent the culture of Tibet.

The inculcation and practice of the languages of theses cultures are the essential foundation for study at any level, and all students and staff of the Department are required to develop and maintain a language competence and literacy in the culture of their specialisation. Hence the teaching of the Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien) and Tibetan languages occupies a major and important part of the undergraduate syllabuses.

The literatures of China and Tibet are studied both extensively and intensively, and they form the natural next step after basic language training, being both a means and an aim of higher language competence. The range of styles and genres available for study is extremely wide and covers in some cases three thousand or more years of history. Wider cultural comprehension is built up over the undergraduate courses both through the content of the literature studied and through mainstream and background sources covering such aspects as religion, philosophy, political and social history, family life, and inter-cultural intercourse.

MA degrees are taught in Chinese Literature, Sinology, and East Asian Literature, MPhil and PhD degrees are offered in Chinese and Tibetan.

Key facts

  • Four undergraduate degrees (BA) covering the languages and cultures of China, Taiwan and Tibet, with our without Year Abroad.
  • Five postgraduate degrees (MA), most of which with a flexible structure and a wide range of course choices in various disciplines.
  • Language-based research degrees in a variety of subjects including classical philology and philosophy, traditional and modern literature, drama and performance, cultural studies, film studies, translation theory, and linguistics.
  • Intensive language training in Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien (Taiwanese), classical and literary Chinese, and modern and classical Tibetan.
  • The only Department in the UK to offer a BA degree in Tibetan.

Undergraduate student profile

Ally Clifton

"SOAS picks up where other universities leave off. Others might give you knowledge that is predominantly western oriented. 

SOAS, on the other hand, gives you an understanding of non-western languages, cultures and countries which is increasingly important in a globalised world."
Read Ally's full profile

Facts and figures

  • Undergraduate Applicant/Place Ratio 9:1
  • We rank 2nd in the UK in the Times & Sunday Times University League Table 2015, 5th in the Complete University Guide 2015 (East & South East Asia)
  • 21st in the Guardian 2015 Guide (Languages and Linguistics combined)
  • 84% satisfaction for teaching and 87% for learning resources in the NSS 2013-14
  • NSS - Asian Studies departments ranked 4th in UK
  • Number of Staff: 8 academic, 7 teaching and scholarship, 14 teaching and scholarship (fractional)
  • SOAS joining the global elite for Modern Languages in the recent QS World University Rankings by Subject, where it has been ranked sixth in the UK and 32nd internationally.
  • BA Chinese and BA Tibetan students will spend a year studying in China or Tibet
  • MA Chinese Literature is the only postgraduate programme of its kind in the UK
  • MA in Taiwan Studies is the first and only postgraduate degree focusing on contemporary Taiwan in the English-speaking world.
  • Ranked 1st in the UK in the Times & Sunday Times University League Table 2015 for Research Quality (East and South Asian Studies)
  • The department works closely with the SOAS China Institute and the Centre for Taiwan Studies
  • The SOAS Library (a National Research Library) has an extensive collection on China and Inner Asia
  • Staff research interests include language, linguistics, translation studies, classical philology and philosophy, cultural and intellectual history, popular culture, cinema, visual culture and media technology, literature, drama, theatre and performance studies.

SOAS students secure top prizes in Chinese Bridge competition

Freddy Chinese Bridge competition

SOAS students reached the finals in the 13th Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, commonly known as ‘Chinese Bridge’.

Securing second and third place in the competition, SOAS students have an outstanding record of success in the Chinese Bridge Competition, a prestigious international contest in Chinese language and culture proficiency for non-native speakers.
Further details about the Chinese Bridge competition.

Our strengths

The Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia covers one of the oldest yet most dynamic and important regions of the world. Demand for specialists with advanced proficiency in the languages of this region has significantly increased in recent years, and the choice of languages available in the Department is unmatched in Europe.

More about us...

  • The SOAS China Institute is the largest community of China scholars working together under one roof in Europe.
  • SOAS benefits from having the most Taiwan specialists of any university outside of Taiwan or China and offers postgraduate degrees (MA Taiwan Studies) and a range of Taiwan-related courses and activities through the Centre for Taiwan Studies.
  • SOAS boasts among its alumni many of the most prominent scholars in Tibetan Studies. This continues today with a variety of programmes, staff, events, and resources including the only BA programme in Tibetan Studies to be taught in the UK.


The China Quarterly is a leading peer-reviewed journal featuring scholarship on contemporary China and Taiwan. It is published for SOAS by Cambridge University Press.

Postgraduate student profile

Giulia Cibotti

When I first arrived in London, I didn’t know many people but SOAS soon felt like home. As the campus itself is quite small, students develop a strong sense of community, as if they were all part of a large eccentric family. Also, given the nature of our studies, people here are extremely diverse, friendly and open-minded. You can tell that everyone is really passionate and enthusiastic about what they do. It’s very contagious and inspirational.
Read Giulia's full profile

Interdisciplinary team secures ERC grant to explore kingdoms of Asia

Nathan Hill

As part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers, Dr Nathan W. Hill, lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS, University of London, has secured a €7 million European Research Council (ERC) Synergy Grant to explore the interlocking kingdoms in Asia and their interactions between South, South East and Central Asia. The project focuses on the literary, economic and religious developments of the fourth and fifth centuries CE, a crucial period of cultural formation and international exchange.

Forthcoming Events