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Department of the Study of Religions

Research Degrees: Study of Religions


The SOAS Study of Religions Department offers a vibrant, stimulating, and interdisciplinary research environment. We provide individual research supervision in a wide variety of religious traditions and comparative and interdisciplinary topics. Supervisors are experts in their fields and thoroughly familiar with the religions, cultures, languages, and geographical areas they specialise in. 

In addition to individual supervision the Department offers research training at various levels: an obligatory research writing workshop which prepares year 1 MPhil students for their upgrade to the PhD level; a weekly seminar for PhD students in years 2 and 3 to discuss work in progress and receive feedback before submitting their thesis; a departmental research seminar in which both staff and students present papers on their research projects and discuss them in an interdisciplinary setting. Students also have the opportunity to attend seminars, lectures, and conferences offered by the various specialist Centres relating to their particular fields. These centres run regular evening lecture series, workshops, and conferences which host visiting speakers from other universities in Britain, Europe, and globally.

Further Information


A SOAS PhD degree has to be completed within a maximum of four years. A draft of the thesis must be ready at the end of year 3; during year 4 the student is on continuation status, also referred to as an 'extension of writing up'; the completed thesis must be submitted until September 15 of year 4 of registration.

All first year research students are registered for MPhil status. The outcome of a mini-viva at the end of term 3 conducted by the three members of the student’s supervisory committee determines whether they will be (a) upgraded to PhD candidate status, (b) continue as MPhil candidates, (c) need to revise his or her proposal, or (d) should terminate registration.

In the first year students develop their specific research projects and plans in consultation with the three members of their supervisory committee. Individual supervisions, the obligatory departmental research writing workshop, and generic core writing courses help students prepare their upgrade submission materials which have to be submitted by the submission deadline in May.

Year-by-Year Requirements for Full-time MPhil and PhD Research Students

Year One

During Year One, the student refines the research proposal and decides in conjunction with his/her Supervisory Committee whether the research project should be directed towards the goal of an MPhil or a PhD degree. Students who wish to work towards the PhD must pass the process of upgrading registration from MPhil to PhD candidacy.  They must provide the following to the Supervisory Committee by the May deadline (exact date t.b.c. by SOAS Registry):

1. Year 1-3/4: Minutes of supervisory meetings have to be recorded by the student on the Moodle logbook throughout.
2. Term 1-2: Evidence of obligatory attendance of MPhil/PhD Research Workshop (SRRESWRIT_N1/01)
3. In Term 2: Pre-circulation and brief oral presentation of a draft chapter of the upgrading submission (10,000 words) for discussion in the MPhil/PhD Research Workshop
4. Upgrading submission of 20,000 words in May to the three supervisors and the research tutor via PDF in an e-mail attachment:

a. Introduction (including Literature Review, Sources & Methodology, Chapter Outline, Research Plan & Time Schedule, Draft Bibliography),
b. draft core chapter
c. statement on research ethics in case of fieldwork.

5. The procedure of the upgrade viva at SoR is as follows:

a. The three supervisors write individual reports on the submitted documents and circulate them among themselves before the upgrade viva.
b. The 1 hour long 'mini viva' is held with the candidate and his/her three supervisors in May/June.
c. The supervisory committee comes to a collective judgement and records and signs the upgrade form accordingly (and ethics review form if 'yes' is ticked by the candidate in the upgrade form): http://www.soas.ac.uk/registry/pgresearch/forms/
d. The decision will be communicated to the candidate orally immediately after the viva.
e. The principal supervisor passes a written summary of the three individual reports, containing valuable feedback, to the candidate. 

Year Two - Fieldwork or Data Collection

After a successful upgrade to MPhil/PhD status students can go abroad to do fieldwork or do research in local libraries. During the second year student work on their source material, whether it consists of texts, interviews, surveys, or visual, etc., sources.

  1. Regular reports must be submitted to supervisor, via email or in person. The other members of the research committee need to be kept informed as well.
  2. A second core chapter will normally be completed.
Year Three – Completion of Full Draft

During the third year of their PhD students are expected to write a draft of their thesis. This draft must be ready at the end of the year to proceed to continuation status in year 4.

  1. Required presentation at the PhD/MPhil Research Seminar.
  2. Application for continuation status requires the submission of a draft of the thesis at the end of year 3 together with the continuation approval form (not later than 31 August).
  3. All three members of the supervisory committee read the draft and provide written feedback. All committee members sign the Extension of Writing-Up Form (download doc | pdf) if the Committee is satisfied that the draft thesis can be developed into a thesis of a quality worthy for submission for examination in the subsequent academic year. The final date for submission is 15 September.

The student will then be allowed to register on Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) Status in Year 4 at reduced fees during year 4, assuming 4 years are needed to complete the thesis.

Teaching experience may be available in Year Two or Three, depending on Department needs.

Year Four – Completion and Submission of Thesis

The thesis must be completed and submitted by the end of year 4 not later than 15 September.

At the viva (thesis examination), the examiners aim to confirm:

  1. that they have satisfied themselves that the thesis is genuinely the work of the candidate
  2. that the thesis forms a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject, and affords evidence of originality by:
    1. the discovery of new facts; and/or
    2. the exercise of independent critical power
  3. that the thesis is satisfactory as regards literary presentation
  4. that the thesis is of a standard to merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form.

For important rules and regulations concerning research students see the following webpages:

How to apply

How to apply


Elisabeth Croll Scholarship for fieldwork in China

Application Deadline: 2015-04-30 00:00

Felix Non- Indian Scholarship

Application Deadline: 2015-01-30 17:00

Meiji Jingu Japanese Studies Research Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2015-05-22 17:00

SOAS Research Studentships

Application Deadline: 2015-01-30 17:00

Santander Mobility Awards

Application Deadline: 2014-10-31 00:00

Sasakawa Postgraduate Studentship

Application Deadline: 2015-02-27 17:00

Sochon Foundation Scholarship

Application Deadline: 2015-05-01 17:00

The Jordan Travel Grant

Application Deadline: 2015-03-03 00:00

V P Kanitkar Memorial Scholarships

V P Kanitkar Memorial Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2015-01-30 17:00

Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarships in the Humanities

Application Deadline: 2015-01-30 17:00

For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section

A Student's Perspective

It proved to be a highly stimulating research environment, fostering my analytical skills and allowing me to get in touch with a number of important personalities in my field.

Tullio Lobetti