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South Asia Department

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in South Asian Studies

Overview

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

SOAS has an international reputation for excellence in the field of South Asian studies. In the most recent RAE (2009), 65% of the work of the department was rated as world leading or internationally excellent, an assessment that helped SOAS to achieve the rank of first in the UK in Asian Studies.

The department welcomes applications for the degrees of MPhil or PhD on any topic related to the research interests and disciplines of the Department’s research-active staff. Prospective candidates should consult the details of the various staff members’ research areas. These presently include, but are not limited to: Indian film and cinema; diaspora studies; postcolonial literature; literary studies associated with Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Gujarati, Tamil and Sanskrit; classical Hinduism; feminism; current representations of Muslims; and the politics of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. Broader topics can be accommodated through joint supervision with colleagues in other departments and centres.

A full research training programme is provided at a Faculty level, in addition to the close attention each student receives from his or her supervisor. It is intended that this training will be supplemented on a disciplinary basis through seminars run by the various Centres located in the Faculty.

A list of both current and recently completed PhD projects can be consulted, and a list of current staff members and their research interests are available. Would-be candidates are strongly encouraged to make initial contact with a prospective supervisor in the first instance, and well in advance of submitting their application, to discuss their proposed research. More general queries should be directed to the Department Research Tutor or to the Admissions Office.

Structure

All students register in year 1 of the programme as MPhil students. The upgrade from MPhil to PhD takes place at the end of the first academic session for full time students (or at the end of the second academic session for part time students).

All new MPhil/PhD students are provided with a supervisory committee of three members, comprising a main or primary supervisor, and a second and third supervisor. The split in time commitment across the supervisory committee is 60:25:15. In the first year students are expected to meet their main supervisor on a bi-weekly basis for a period of at least one hour.

The student’s primary supervisor is always a member of the Department in which the student is registered. The second and third supervisors, who act in a supplementary advisory capacity, may be from the same Department, or other Departments/Centres in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures or in Departments/Centres in the other Faculties of the School.

Depending on the nature of the research, joint supervision is sometimes recommended, under the direction of two primary supervisors. In such cases the student has only one further supervisor on their committee.

The student’s progress is further overseen by a Departmental Research Tutor.

In the first year, students prepare for research by following a research training seminar series (RTS) convened at the Faculty level by the Associate Dean for Research and supported by the generic training on offer in the Academic Development Directorate (ADD).

Students working in the fields of literature and cultural studies are also invited to participate in the additional training offered in the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS).

Students may also be encouraged by supervisors to attend additional taught courses relevant to their research and to their training needs. These may include specialist disciplinary, language or regional culture courses or research training in other Departments outside the Faculty.

Year 1 full time students (year 2 for part time students)  are required to submit a core chapter and research proposal (of about 10,000 words) by Friday 10th May 2013, typically including the following elements:

  1. Research rationale and context of proposed research
  2. Main research questions
  3. Literature review
  4. Theoretical and methodological framework and considerations
  5. Proposed research methods
  6. Ethical issues (where applicable)
  7. Outlining structure of PhD dissertation
  8. Schedule of research and writing
  9. Bibliography.

Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the students and lead supervisors.

The upgrade process from MPhil to PhD status is based upon an assessment of the core chapter by the student’s research committee, and upon on a 20-30 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion. The oral presentation is given to Departmental staff and research students. On successful completion of the extended proposal, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year. (If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the upgrade proposal, students will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed.) Students are not normally permitted to proceed to the second year until the upgrade process has been completed.

The second year (or part time equivalent) is normally spent engaged in research. This may be by any combination of fieldwork and research in libraries and material collection as agreed between the student and the supervisor(s).

The third year (or part time equivalent) is devoted to writing up research for the PhD thesis. During this time, students will normally give a presentation in a research seminar organised by the Departmental Research Tutor, comprising a select number of staff members with special expertise in the topic and other research students. During the third year (or part time equivalent) students will present draft chapters to their main supervisor for comment, before completing a final draft of the thesis. Once a full draft is complete, the work is assessed by all members of the supervisory committee and the student can either submit the thesis or move on to Continuation Status to be given a further 12 months to complete the thesis and submit for examination. The thesis must be completed within 48 months from the time of registration (or part time equivalent).

The thesis – not to exceed 100,000 words in length - is examined by two leading authorities in the field, one of whom is internal to the University of London and one of whom is external to the University.

PhD Degrees are awarded by SOAS from registration in 2013 and are subject to SOAS regulations.

A Student's Perspective

The most lucrative resource has been the SOAS library which has an excellent South Asia collection. Also, the central London location of SOAS means I never really go far for anything!

Akhil Katyal