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South Asia Department

BA South Asian Studies (3 years)

Programme Code: T300 BA/SAS Duration: 3 years


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2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAB
  • A Level language desirable but not essential
  • IB: 35 (6/6/5)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: AAABB
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: AAB
  • Irish LC: 340 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 4 4 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0
  • Euro Bacc: 80%
  • French Bacc: 14/20
  • German Abitur: 2.0
  • Italy DES: 80/100
  • Austria Mat: 2.0
  • Polish Mat: Overall 75% including 3 extended level subjects

Minimum Entry Requirements: Languages at SOAS are taught ab initio, and no prior knowledge is required. A foreign language at A-level or equivalent is preferred but not essential.

Subjects Preferred: No

Interview Policy: Candidates with ‘non-standard’ qualifications are often invited for interview, though many applications are assessed on the basis of the UCAS forms alone.

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

The department offers the broadest range of teaching in the UK and Europe on the languages, literatures and cultures of the principal countries of South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The degree is centred on language study, but includes a wide range of options which allow the student to study South Asia through several different disciplines including social anthropology, art and archaeology, cinema, economics, geography, history, law, literature, music, politics and religion. The breadth of the School’s expertise on South Asia makes BA South Asian Studies unique in the UK university system.

BA South Asian Studies is a 3-year degree, and four courses are taken each year. The first year features the core course South Asian Culture, a modular course which introduces aspects of the languages and cultures of the subcontinent. This is taken alongside an introductory language course in Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Sanskrit, or Urdu, which is also core, which in turn leads to further units in the same language and its literature in Years 2 and 3. (Gujarati, Pali, Sinhala and Tamil are also available, but in a more limited range of courses.) Not all language courses are available every year, and all courses are subject to quorum; current availability can be checked by contacting the South Asia Department. Further courses relevant to South Asia are selected from options taught in other departments. Given the range of courses available, the Department is careful to offer appropriate advice to each student in making his or her selection, in order to ensure an overall coherence of coverage.

Introductory language courses taught in Year 1 assume no previous knowledge of the chosen language or its script: they start completely from scratch. Courses in modern languages concentrate on all four linguistic skills – understanding, speaking, reading and writing; classes are small and interactive, with students being encouraged to use the language actively from the outset. Many of our introductory language courses have been written especially for our needs by members of the Department staff; and Intermediate and advanced language courses feature a wide range of ‘real world’ teaching and study materials. The formal teaching is complemented by the frequent open lectures, seminars and cultural events on South Asian themes that are held regularly in SOAS.

Final-year options include an Independent Study Project, which gives the student an opportunity to pursue a subject of personal interest (in language, literature, politics, culture, religion, the arts and media, or any other aspect of contemporary or historical India), leading to the writing of a 10,000-word dissertation under tutorial supervision.

BA South Asian Studies (3 years) can be taken as a single-subject degree, or as a two-subject degree in combination with African Studies, Development Studies, Economics, Geography, History, History of Art/Archaeology, Law, Linguistics, Music, Politics, Social Anthropology, or Study of Religions. The two-subject degree must include at least five units in South Asian Studies over the three years.

Students with a specific interest in Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Sanskrit or Urdu may like to consider, as an alternative to 3 year programme, the 4 year full or half degree featuring these languages as a named pathway; these degrees have a more specific focus on the respective language itself and include a year abroad in South Asia.


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.

Students must take four course units per year, and have considerable flexibility in constructing their own programme of study. Students can choose non-language units from a range of approved South-Asia related courses from subject areas which include anthropology, art and archaeology, economics, film, geography, history, law, literature, music, politics and religion.

NB: not all courses are available every year - please check to see which courses are on offer.

Core courses must be passed in order to proceed to the following year of study.

NB: The structure for this course has changed for new students enrolling in (or after) the 2012/13 academic year.

Structure for students who enrolled in 2011/12 or before

Please see the PDF document if you enrolled in 2011/12 or earlier BA South Asian Studies (3 years) Structure (pdf; 11kb)

Structure for students who enrol in 2012/13 or after

Year 1
Core Course
Language 1 Course

Choose a language course from List A at an appropriate level. Usually Bengali/Hindi/Nepali/Sanskrit/Urdu 1 unless student has prior language knowledge.

Optional Course

Choose courses to the value of 1 unit from List A or B.

Open Option

Choose courses to the value of 1 unit from List B or an Open Option.

Year 2
Core Course

Choose 1 of the following courses.

Optional Course

Choose a language course at an appropriate level from List A or courses to the value of 1 unit from List C.

Optional Course

Choose a course from List A or List C.

Open Option

Choose a course from List C or an Open Option course.

Year 3
Optional Course

Students are encouraged to undertake the following ISP.

Optional Course

Choose a course at an intermediate or advanced level from List A or a course from List C.

Optional Course

Choose a course from List C.

Open Option

Choose a course from List C or an Open Option course.

List A: South Asian Language Courses

The list below indicates the pathway along which students can progress as they do their South Asian language courses. Students may not take more than one language course at elementary level in any given year.

Elementary Level
Intermediate Level
Advanced Level
List B: Introductory Courses on Aspects of South Asian History and Culture
List C: Non-Language Based South Asian and South Asian-Related Courses

Some courses require successful attendance of a relevant introductory course; students are advised to check the relevant course descriptions for prerequisites and consult the relevant course tutor before selecting units.

Centre for Film Studies
Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia
School of Law
Department of Politics and International Studies
Department of History
Department of Art and Archaeology
Department of Music
Department of the Study of Religions
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Department of Economics

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad


Teaching & Learning

Teaching and Assessment

Language teaching is mostly in small tutorial groups; tapes and language laboratory facilities are available for formal teaching and self-study. Non-language units are taught by lecture and seminar. Language classes are examined by written and oral examination; non-language classes are examined by essays and written examination.

Special Features

SOAS library, the national library for Asian and African materials, is one of the world’s major collections of information in the field of South Asian studies.

Pre Entry Reading

  • G.A. Zograph The Languages of South Asia: a guide London 1981
  • C. Shackle, ed., South Asian Languages: a handbook London 1985
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, Cambridge 1989


As a student specialising in South Asia, you will gain 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 and culture (which can include literature, film, music, art and religion) of various parts of South Asia.

Graduates leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in both business and the public sector. 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.

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

A Student's Perspective

I have had the chance to read the most up to date, often controversial and revealing perspectives on South Asia, presented by leading academics who will often actually be members of the South Asia Department Faculty itself. My choice to study at SOAS was the best decision I ever made; being a student here is an exciting and unique experience.

Mikaela Parrack