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Department of Music, School of Arts

BA Music

Programme Code: W300 BA/MS Duration: 3 years


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2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: BBB
  • including A Level Music
  • IB: 31 (554 at HL)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: BBBBB
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: BBB
  • Irish LC: 300 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 3 4 4 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0
  • Euro Bacc: 75%
  • French Bacc: 13/20
  • German Abitur: 2.5
  • Italy DES: 75/100
  • Austria Mat: 2.5
  • Polish Mat: Overall 70% including 3 extended level subjects

Subjects Preferred: A level Music, or equivalent is required for the single-subject degree. A level Music is not required for the combined Music programme, but evidence of both academic ability and active involvement in musical performance or composition is essential.

Interview Policy: Candidates not normally interviewed but encouraged to attend Open Days or contact the Department with enquiries


This programme is a unique opportunity to study the musical traditions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and their global diasporas. Students are taught the basic principles of ethnomusicology and survey a variety of Asian and African musics. In years 2 and 3 they are encouraged to focus on the music of specific regions and to consider cross-regional themes. Performance is a central component of the degree. Students have the opportunity to develop expertise in a great variety of musical performance traditions.

SOAS has the only Music department in the UK devoted to the study of world music. We have a very active musical life, including concert series, student ensembles and a successful summer school in which students can become involved. Students are taught in the heart of London, home to many vibrant and diverse communities and to a breath-taking array of world music concerts, workshops and festivals. Our students actively participate in this rich and varied musical scene.

Graduates of the BA Music possess not only musical and cultural expertise, but also a portfolio of widely transferable skills sought by employers in professional and creative industries. The programme leads into careers and vocational pathways including arts management, festival administration and curating, music journalism, teaching, performing and composing, album production, and management and consultancy within the music industry in Europe, Asia and Africa.

BA Music can also be studied as part of a two-subject degree. This option allows more scope for studying language or other non-musical aspects of particular cultures. The single-subject degree allows greater concentration on music, including Western music and Performance.


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.

General Structure

First-year courses cover the basic principles of ethnomusicology and survey a variety of Asian and African musics. Students additionally receive aural training (e.g. in transcription) and follow lessons in one or more Asian or African performance traditions. The Department is linked with nearby King’s College, University of London. Qualified SOAS students may take one or two half-units in Western music at King’s, and King’s students may take courses in ethnomusicology at SOAS, subject to approval from the appropriate tutors.

In Years 2 and 3, the student is encouraged to focus on the music of a selected region or regions through “area” courses focussing on Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Jewish world. A number of non-regional “thematic” courses and independent research projects are also available. Courses in other departments (“open options”) may be taken as appropriate, once the Music requirements have been met.

Degree Detail

  • Students are required to take courses to the total value of 12 units over the duration of their degree, or 4 units per year.  A full-unit course will be taught over both terms, while a half unit is a course taught over one term.  
  • Up to 3 units may come from "open option courses" (courses outside of this programme - e.g. language or non-music courses), but only one unit of open option courses may be taken in each year.
  • SOAS Music undergraduates may take selected Western music courses at King's College, with the approval of the course tutor, as open option courses. Many King's courses are taught during one term only, and term and exam dates may differ from SOAS. In particular, some exams are held in January.

Year 1:

Single-subject students take the 6 compulsory 15 credit courses (90 credits in total) in the "Compulsory Courses" listing below. Their remaining 30 credits may be an "open option" course or a music course at King's College London.

Year 2:

Single-subject students take the compulsory 15 credit course Ethnomusicology Themes & Variations. They must also take one unit chosen from the "Area Courses" list. Remaining units can be selected from any of the course groups, with up to one unit from an open option course, or music courses at Kings College London.

Year 3:

Single-subject students take the compulsory 15 credit course Urban Soundscapes. They must also take one unit chosen from the "Area Courses" list below. Remaining units can be selected from any of the course groups, with up to one unit from an open option course, or music courses at Kings College London.

Course Detail

Year 1 Compulsory Courses
Year 1 Optional Course
Year 2 Compulsory Course
Year 3 Compulsory Course
Area Courses
General Courses
Project Courses
Performance Courses

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

The Department of Music has been highly rated for teaching and research in all recent assessment exercises, and is regularly ranked amongst the top Music departments in the UK in Good University Guides.

Music students have access to the large Main Library of the School which holds numerous books, journals and recordings relevant to the study of ethnomusicology and world music, as well as the nearby British Library Sound Archive and other London libraries and museums.

The SOAS Library holds copies of standard reference works on music, such as the current edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The Grove dictionary and the RILM database can also be accessed on line from computer terminals in the Library or elsewhere on the SOAS network. Listening facilities are provided in the Library, and most CDs are available on short loan.
Among special items in the Department’s collections are:

  • field recordings, films and slides
  • a large working collection of musical instruments from Asia and Africa
  • extensive staff collections relating to specific research interests


As a graduate who specialised in Music at SOAS, you will have gained competency in one or more world music performance traditions, intercultural awareness and understanding of global music and the world music industry. Familiarity with a specific region will have been developed through the study of its music. You will have the opportunity to develop practical vocational skills in sound recording and radio presenting. Graduates leave SOAS not only with musical and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and creative capacities, including interpersonal skills, communication skills, focus, teamwork, passion and dedication.

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

  • AKTC
  • Davies Arnold Cooper LLP
  • PPP Company Limited
  • Fundamental Frequency Productions
  • Golden Feathers - Alice Myth
  • Indigenous People
  • Music For Change
  • T&T Productions
  • Whitefield School
  • DfID World Music Matters

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include: 

  • Musicologist
  • Trainee Solicitor
  • English Teacher
  • Proofreader
  • Composer/Producer
  • Musician
  • Marketing Officer
  • Project Manager
  • Head of CSL Products
  • Musician
  • Translator
  • Director
  • Music Therapist

Specific Alumni

  • Nana Klimek (BA Music Studies) works at HeadNod Talent Agency in London.
  • Rick Wilson (BA Music Studies), among other activities, collaborates with former MMus student Sally Pomme Clayton, providing music for her story-telling performances.
  • Leni Koupis (BA Music Studies) is a fund-raiser and charity concert organiser for the Free Tibet Campaign.
  • Nami Morris (BA Music & Korean) works in the External Affairs Division of Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea.
  • Mira Sengupta (BA Music Studies) has composed music for three radio plays for LBC and has worked as a concert promoter.
  • Many other graduates proceed to postgraduate study at SOAS or elsewhere. Others return, enhanced, to previous careers: Nigel Gomme as a composer and arranger, Fiona West as a music producer, David Wright as a jazz saxophonist, etc.

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

A Student's Perspective

The enthusiasm that the lecturers have in their subjects is infectious and it ensures everybody succeeds. The extra curricular music scene is pretty unique and seriously enjoyable, one day you could be playing the kora, the next, gigging with the Cuban Big Band, the next, looking after Mory Kante and talking music with him after a gig in the Brunei Gallery! It’s all here under one roof.

Liam Barnard