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Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

MA South East Asian Studies

Duration: One year (full-time) Two or three years (part-time)


Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours (or equivalent)

Start of programme: September intake only

The MA in South East Asian Studies provides exceptional opportunities for advanced study of one of the world’s most diverse and important regions.

Students on the programme come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some come into the programme having acquired an interest in South East Asia during their undergraduate career or as a result of travelling in the region.

The programme also attracts mature students: some take the MA as a partial preparation for employment in the region; others, having lived in South East Asia for a number of years, seek to place their experience and impressions into a more structured, analytical framework.

Knowledge of a South East Asian language is not a requirement of the course. Language modules, however, are popular options.


Students take three taught courses, one of which is considered a major, and complete a 10,000 word dissertation related to the major.

The two minor courses can be taken from the same discipline (but different to that of the major) or two different ones. Some disciplines such as politics, economics or social anthropology require an appropriate qualification (such as part of a first degree) if any of their courses are to be taken as the major subject.

Art and Archaeology
Major Only
International Studies and Diplomacy
Language (one language option as a minor only)
Law (minor only)
Literature (appropriate language skills required)
Literature (no language requirement)
Music (minor only)

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Lectures and Seminars

For most courses there is one 2-hour class each week. This may be an informal lecture followed by a discussion or student presentation. At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work where students may be expected to make full-scale presentations for units they take.


The 10,000 word dissertation on an approved topic linked with one of the taught courses.

Learning Resources

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


A postgraduate degree in South East Asian studies from SOAS provides its students with competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding.   Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature, history, cinema, politics, economics or law.

Postgraduate students are equipped with linguistic and cultural expertise enabling them to continue in the field of research, along with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in
many professional and management careers in business, public or charity sectors.  These include written and oral communication skills; attention to detail; analytical and problem solving skills; and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources. A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

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

American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce
BBC Worldwide Japan Ltd
British Embassy
Calyon Corporate and Investment Bank
DesaKota Productions
Education First
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Institut de Recherche sur l'Asie du Sud-Est Contemporaine
Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC)
National Archives of Japan
NBC News
Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA)
Singapore Press Holdings
The Finacial Times
The Japan Foundation
The New York Times
TIME Magazine
Vietnam Holding

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

Programme Editor
Training and event Officer
HM Ambassador
Director - Senior Credit Analyst
Head Of Product Management
Political Attache
Travel Consultant
Desk Officer
Project Manager
Grants, Trusts & Major Donor Fundraiser
Archival Specialist
Associate Consultant
Regional Research Coordinator
Vietnam Correspondent
Senior Lecturer

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

A Student's Perspective

Not only does SOAS offer a first class education with top scholars in the field, it also offers a great professional and social network. Upon graduation, my professional career path was wide opened. The SOAS experience has taught me to be a specialist in different fields, not only politics, but also development, gender and migration, and good governance.

Dinita Setyawati