[skip to content]

Department of Economics

Research Degrees: Economics

Overview

Featured events

Minimum Entry Requirements: Admission and Thesis Requirements A good Masters degree in Economics is usually required for registration for the MPhil and PhD research degrees. Students are normally registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Once approval of the Department's Research Student Committee has been received, the student's registration is upgraded to PhD status (and backdated to the commencement of the MPhil registration), usually at the end of the first year of study. The normal period of study for a PhD degree is not less than three years of full-time study. Students in full-time employment or with other significant commitments may register for part-time study, for which the minimum registration period is double that of full-time study. Candidates are expected to present a thesis of not more than 55,000 words for the MPhil, while for the PhD the maximum length is 100,000 words.

Students whose qualifications indicate that they are able to pursue independent research may be accepted to read for a research degree (MPhil/ PhD). Normally a high level Masters degree in Economics or equivalent is a prerequisite. In general, the MSc as precondition of entry is sufficient to satisfy coursework requirements, especially as far as examinations are concerned. The first year of training involves attendance at courses and/or seminars but not formal written examinations. Almost all students are registered for an MPhil in their first (full-time equivalent) year only but convert to a Phd after their upgrade viva rather than continuing to the MPhil qualification.

There are a number of routes to obtaining a research degree from the Department of Economics. One, currently by far the most common, is to study for a PhD in Economics by being a student within the Department and supervised by a member of the Department. Another is to be within the Department and supervised by a member of the Department but to be attached to the newly created Phd pathway in International Development, ID, which is shared with the Department of Development Studies within SOAS and with other partners nearby through the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre. For details of this, please see: Scholarships and Bursaries. The ID pathway has the advantage of being eligible for award of ESRC Grants (see below on Scholarships and Funding). Last, and least common, it is possible to be a student within the Department studying for a Phd in Economics but to be supervised by a member of staff from another department. By the same token, it is possible for a Phd student from another department to be supervised by a member of the Economics Department. In these cases of cross-departmental supervision, by virtue of more appropriate expertise in another department, both departments must agree to the arrangement and make provision for it (especially supervision in a department other than that responsible for training and administering student progress).

An essential feature of the MPhil and PhD work is the close relationship between research students and supervisors. Supervisors and students meet regularly and consult closely. All research students have a supervisory committee to cover theoretical, empirical and regionally specific supervision, as appropriate. There is a Research Student Tutor with overall responsibility for research students, who is available for discussion of general problems. And the Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC) exists to offer detailed and individual advice to students about their fieldwork and empirical analysis as appropriate. As necessary, upon request, DESC will consider individual student needs and allocate one or more members of staff (not necessarily supervisor) to advise.

Students are required to participate in a workshop/seminar in which research topics and results are presented and discussed by staff and students. In addition, there is a regular departmental seminar, to which members of the department and visiting speakers present papers. There is a strong interdisciplinary basis for research and teaching, and SOAS can claim to be the leading institution in the world researching and teaching in political economy, development economics and area or specific country studies. London, moreover, provides an unrivalled opportunity for students to hear papers being read by leading authorities in African and Asian studies. Research students may choose from a wealth of seminars both in the School (especially in the regional and interdisciplinary centres) and in other colleges and institutes of the university.

For more details of the Departmental Programme, please see the 'structure' tab on this page.

Scholarships, Funding and ESRC Recognition

There are a number of scholarships available to research (and MSc) students at SOAS please see: Scholarships for further information.  But it is a condition of acceptance that students embarking upon a research degree have the capacity to fund the full duration of their study. There may be some paid opportunities for teaching, normally not in first year, but these cannot be relied upon and will not begin to cover fees and maintenance fully.

In the past, the Department was recognised by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, ESRC, in its MSc programmes to be eligible for funding of students, and received quota awards for MSc and research student support. Under the new system of ESRC support introduced in 2011/12, comprising Doctoral Training Centres, DTC, the Department is part of the recognised Bloomsbury DTC through participating in a pathway leading to a Phd in International Development. In this, subject to taking certain courses as options, all of the Department’s MScs are effectively recognised as eligible for ESRC funding of students but they must be registered for the MSc in Research in International Development Programme

Staff Research

All full-time, permanent members of academic staff are active researchers and can serve as supervisors. The Department as a whole is especially keen to supervise research students across its staff’s areas of specialisation in political economy, development and area studies, but will also accept students across other topics, including mainstream approaches, where it has an interest and expertise. Please see the Economics Staff pages for a list of staff and their research interests. For the sorts of topics covered by research students, please see Research Student web pages.

For further information about the Research Degrees at SOAS please contact the PhD Admissions Tutor, Ben Fine, or the Admissions Office on researchadmissions@soas.ac.uk, and for general information and regulations concerning research students at SOAS, please see: Research Admissions and Applications. Also click on tabs at top of the page next to Overview.

Structure

Objectives of Research Training in Economics


• to encourage and enable students to complete an original thesis in the expected time.
• to provide training and experience in fieldwork and across a variety of schools of economics and in a variety of statistical techniques.
• to allow flexibility in training to suit students with different backgrounds and subsequent research needs.
• to make available and to monitor first class research supervision with the involvement of at least two members of staff through individual Research Student Committees.
• to encourage knowledge of other relevant disciplines and the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach where appropriate.
• to equip students with the ability to assess one another's work critically, whether in response to written or spoken presentation.
• to obtain language skills as appropriate.
• to ensure a congenial and productive environment for the conduct of research through availability of a wide range of facilities and full participation in the intellectual life of the Department and School. Library facilities are outstanding and computing facilities are attuned to student needs.
• to emphasise the relevance of research to theoretical, empirical and policy issues.
• to draw upon the Department's particular strengths, especially its expertise in different approaches to economic problems and its experience in problems of development, specific regions, and comparative analysis.
• to involve students in the specialised Centres of the School where appropriate

 

Special Features of Studying for a Research Degree


The Department of Economics at SOAS has become one of the most outstanding sites for undertaking a research degree in economics and is unique in a number of respects:
• The Department’s own MSc programme is offered as a foundation for undertaking a research degree, together with the MSc in International Development. The core courses in economic theory, the political economy of development and econometrics are wide-ranging in scope and oriented towards theoretical, empirical and policy issues, especially where concerning the developing economies. Its special subject options are varied and provide the highest level of expertise on a large number of more specialised topics. Even those who have already completed an MSc in Economics at other institutions have found it worthwhile to follow courses on the MSc at SOAS.
• In addition to access to the Department's own MSc courses and the weekly dedicated research student seminar for all research students, first year students in the Department also benefit from a programme of research student training in political economy, method and methodologies, and different schools of thought.
• The training needs of each research student are individually assessed and provided for through a combination of generally available courses and individual tuition.
• Departmental staff have rich experience in supervising research degree students, matched by their success in bringing students' theses to timely completion. Whilst the Department has a strong commitment to early completion of theses, it also considers it has a responsibility to see that all of its research students obtain a broader training than in their narrowly defined topic and that they also gain skills in theoretical, empirical and policy analysis, in the writing and communication of research results, and in evaluating the work of others.
• Research students are expected to form part of the academic community of the Department, participating where appropriate in collaborative research with members of staff.
• Members of the Department are committed to interdisciplinary research as well as to specialised research. SOAS offers unique opportunities for interdisciplinary and regional research, and the scope to learn or improve a language where appropriate.
• Whilst each member of staff is an expert in particular fields of economics, and most are experts in specific geographical areas, the Department welcomes research students who do not have a regional specialisation.
• The Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC) offers targeted advice to individual students undertaking empirical work.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Supervision 
  1. The role of the second and third members of the Supervisory Committee (SC) will be focused on the following two core tasks:

    a) Participate in the upgrade process of the student, including the final decision relating to his/her transfer from MPhil to PhD.
    b) Participate in other decisions relating to his/her eligibility for enrolment on Extension of  Writing-up (Continuation) Status or, where necessary, termination of registration.

  2. In addition to these core roles, the second and third members of the SC may be expected to:
    a) Enhance or augment the supervision of the student by contributing additional guidance and expertise, if required/sought by the student and/or the supervisor throughout the time of active research.
    b) To act on behalf of the supervisor during unforeseen periods of absence. This role will have to be agreed by consent of all parties (student, supervisor and the two members of the SC) and one of the two members will be designated as cover in absence for the period in question.

 

  1. Only rarely is joint supervision allowed, for which a strong case would need to be made. Whilst the primary responsibility for guiding student's research and to review written work and progress rests with the supervisor once upgrade is successfully completed, other members of the supervisory committee must receive student’s thesis drafts at appropriate times, with support also available to students from the Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC).
Part-Time Students

Part-time students are expected to follow the same programme as the full-time students, except that they will take the initial training over two years instead of one. The Research Student Seminar and Departmental Seminars take place in the early evening to allow students in full-time employment to attend. Supervision is available in the evenings where necessary, and research student committees consider the progress of part- time students as regularly as for full-time students.

Computing Facilities

Full computing facilities are available to postgraduate students. Computers dedicated for the use of research students in the Economics Department are also available. Software includes word-processing, specialised statistical, econometrics and spreadsheet packages. The Schools' computing staff are on hand to assist with general computing problems.

A Student's Perspective

I felt most proud when, being at SOAS, I gained more knowledge about the development issues and growth of my country Pakistan than I had back at home.

Samra Hasan