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Department of Politics and International Studies

MSc Comparative Political Thought

Duration: One calendar year (full-time); Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)


Minimum Entry Requirements: Candidates should have a good undergraduate honours degree in politics, history, anthropology, area studies, or philosophy (UK 2:1 or better)

Start of programme: September 2013

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?:

The programme is designed for graduate students who wish to learn about the diverse strands of political thinking in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the different approaches to comparison in political thought. It is highly relevant to students who wish to embark on doctoral studies in the area of non-Western political thought. It is also relevant for practitioners working in or intending to work in governments, international organizations, think tanks and advocacy groups who wish to acquire deeper knowledge of ideas and values that inform political practices in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The MSc in Comparative Political Thought builds on SOAS’s wealth of regional expertise to offer a new approach to cross-regional comparison of political thinking. It reframes the study of political thought in Africa, Asia and the Middle East as a study of political ideas and political practices. The programme introduces students to the key approaches, debates, and questions in the emerging sub-discipline of comparative political thought. Covering a range of thinkers, traditions and texts, in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, it provides learning opportunities for students to compare ideas and values across regions and historical periods. The MSc in Comparative Political Thought will enable graduate students to undertake further advanced study and research in political thought, as well as enhance skills suitable for employment in multicultural and international professional contexts


A. Compulsory Course:
B. Courses within the discipline of Politics:
C. Courses to the value of one unit:

These can be taken entirely within the Politics Department or from the list of those offered by other departments or, in the case of half-units, of a combination of the two

D: Dissertation:

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

The MSc in Comparative Political Thought has two core compulsory half-unit courses that all students registered for the degree will undertake. Approaches to Comparative Political Thought is taken in Term 1, and Comparative International Political Thought in Term 2. Students then choose courses equivalent to two units from a list of optional courses (outlined below), and complete a dissertation based on independent study and research (equivalent to a further unit).

  1. Familiarity with the main approaches in the emerging sub-field of comparative political thought, including different understandings of ‘comparison’ and ‘thought’;
  2. Advanced understanding of some of the philosophical, historical, political and linguistic issues that arise in the study of non-Western political thought;
  3. In-depth knowledge of some key political concepts (eg. state, authority, individual, community), as understood by political thinkers in Asia, Africa and the Middle East;
  4. An understanding of political thought not simply as articulated by elite intellectuals, but also as ideas in action, manifested in political practices at different levels of society.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  1. To analyse and evaluate competing approaches to comparative political thought;
  2. To conceptualise the main issues and problems that arise in the comparative study of political thought;
  3. To develop in-depth understanding of aspects of non-Western political thought;
  4. To develop intellectual initiative and skills to compare political ideas across cultural and historical boundaries, identifying and evaluating similarities and differences;
  5. To formulate research questions and hypotheses.
Subject-based practical skills
  1. To identify, analyse and evaluate core arguments in theoretical materials from a variety of sources;
  2. To develop skills to work creatively and flexibly across different disciplines and regional traditions;
  3. To organise information in a lucid, coherent, concise, and clear form in written as well as oral presentations;
  4. To develop initiative and capacity to work independently on research questions and to adjust hypotheses and approach in the light of work undertaken for the dissertation.
Transferable skills
  1. To retrieve, select, digest and analyse complex information from a variety of sources.
  2. To structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing.
  3. To work effectively in and contribute to meetings, by presenting, listening to and discussing ideas introduced during meetings.
  4. To manage time effectively.

A Student's Perspective

I came to SOAS because I wanted to gain a detailed insight into the politics and political systems of the developing world, but I’ve got so much more than that

Joe Buckley