[skip to content]

South Asia Department

BA South Asian Studies Urdu Pathway


2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAB - ABB
  • A Level language preferred
  • 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

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

This page describes and outlines the Urdu Language Pathway through the BA South Asian Studies (4 years) and BA South Asian Studies and... (4 years) degrees.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and one of the official languages of India. It is one of the most widely-spoken languages of South Asia, and has acquired a wider distribution in other parts of the world, notably the UK, where it is regarded as their major cultural language by most Muslims from Pakistan and northern India. In its everyday spoken form it is fundamentally similar to Hindi, though distinguished from it in script and in higher vocabulary. Besides its important role as the chief vehicle of Islam in South Asia, Urdu has a rich secular literature, whose poetry is closely based on Persian models.

The Urdu pathway is designed to give students a high level of competence in speaking, understanding, reading and writing Urdu, and a good knowledge of its cultural context. It assumes no previous knowledge of Urdu or its script, though we do prefer candidates to have some record of successful language-learning, for example an A-level qualification in a European language. Students with previous knowledge of Urdu will be accommodated in a higher level module.

Students must take modules to the value of 4 units in each year of their degree.  If a student passes 4 module units in one Pathway Language then the language will be named in the degree title, i.e. BA South Asian Studies (Urdu).  Text, Directed Readings and literature modules, and an Independent Study Project in which the language is used to a large extent all count as language modules.

Students must discuss this with their undergraduate tutor at the end of year 1 or the beginning of year 2.  The specialism will be added at the award stage only, when the degree has been completed, and will not feature during application or enrolment.  As such, students should refer to the BA South Asian Studies (4 years) full and half degree pages for full and definitive outlines, structures, and lists of available modules.

Please see the Unistats data for the various combinations of this programme under the Combinations tab.


For full details of module listings (Lists A, B, or C as referred to below) see the lists under "Structure" on the BA South Asian Studies (4 years) or BA South Asian Studies and... (4 years) programme pages, as appropriate.

Not all modules may run each year; students must seek advice from their undergraduate tutor before signing up for modules.

This structure indicates the expected progression for a student who begins their programme of Urdu language study without prior knowledge of the language (ab initio).  Students who arrive with some prior knowledge of Urdu will follow a modified structure, to be worked out on an individual basis.

Students may not take more than one language module at the elementary level in any given year.  Passing of the intermediate level language module (or its equivalent) in Urdu is a prerequisite for admission to the Year Abroad.

Year 1
Core Modules
for BA South Asian Studies (4 years):

- an introductory course (or half-modules to the value of one unit) from List B OR a further module from List A - another introductory module (or half-modules to the value of one unit) from List B OR an approved module in another department ("open option")

for BA South Asian Studies and... (4 years):

Two units in the other subject.

Year 2
Core Modules
Compulsory Modules
for BA South Asian Studies (4 years):

- a further module from List A or List C - a further module from List C OR an approved module in another department ("open option")

for BA South Asian Studies and... (4 years):

Two units in the other subject.

Year 3

Students will spend the whole academic year in India, where they are expected to attend an intensive language module at an appointed institution and are required to sit local examinations.

Year 4
Core Modules
for BA South Asian Studies (4 years):

Three units from: - An advanced Hindi module (Hindi Language 3 or 4 - prerequisite: competence in reading and writing Devanagari script) - One module from List C OR and approved open option module from another Department - One or more of the modules listed below:

for BA South Asian Studies and... (4 years):

Two units in the other subject.

Lists of Optional Modules

For details of modules on Lists A, B and C, refer to the "Structure" section of the BA South Asian Studies (4 years) full or half degrees, as appropriate.


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

Students on the Urdu Pathway will spend their third year at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Lucknow, India.  More information on the Institute can be found at The American Institute of Indian Studies website. Students must pass their second year overall and their core language module to progress to the Year Abroad. Modules run from September to April with students receiving approximately 18-20 hours of instruction per week, including one-to-one personal tutorials. Towards the end of the programme, students are required to complete an Independent Study Project of approximately 3,000-3,500 words in Urdu on a subject of their choice. This must be successfully completed to continue to Year 4.

Information on living costs can be found on the AIIS website by clicking on the 'Estimated Expenditure' tab.

Teaching & Learning

Most of the language teaching is done in small classes and is thoroughly interactive, with students being encouraged to use their growing knowledge of Urdu from the very outset. Advanced modules are largely taught in Urdu medium. Language modules are assessed by a combination of written and oral examination. The Department's core module South Asian Culture is taken in the first year, and gives a solid introduction to the broader culture of the region.

The Urdu pathway is part of a four year degree, the third year (from September to March) being spent on a Year Abroad programme in India: students live with families or with other students and attend full-time Urdu-medium modules.

The degree offers a progression of modules in the language itself, concentrating on communication skills and using a wide range of source materials including news broadcasts, recordings, video, the internet, and much else besides.

Students are encouraged to take a module in Hindi; modules in other South Asian languages and subjects are also available.

Final-year options include an Independent Study Project, which gives the student an opportunity to use Urdu sources 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; the ISP may form a bridge to link the two halves of this two-subject degree.


As a student specialising in South Asia and Urdu, 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 feel that the thorough and systematic teaching provided by SOAS has given me not only a good knowledge of Sanskrit but also skills in critical thought, linguistic and socio-political analysis and communication that will give me something unique to offer to a graduate employer.

Andrew Werner