Academic Life at SOAS
What can I expect as a SOAS student?
Teaching and learning
The British system encourages depth and specialisation and should enable you to match your studies and interests to an extent which may not be possible in your home institution. In contrast to many North American universities, the majority of undergraduate teaching is carried out by tenured faculty rather than graduate students. The advantages of the teaching philosophy at SOAS are that it is possible to receive close supervision and regular personal contact with faculty.
The classic format for university teaching, the lecture, is usually one or two hours in length and given by a member of faculty. It sets out the main themes, ideas and critiques of the topic under discussion, and is normally supported with a reading list or other course material.
Seminars, classes and tutorials
The lecture often provides the framework for more detailed discussion, work and reading around a given topic or theme. This takes place in groups, facilitated by a teacher. A large lecture-focused course will almost always have a parallel series of tutorials in which the themes can be elaborated. Where the number of students is smaller, all the teaching may be done in classes, where presentations of topics by teachers are made in order to provoke debate. The seminar tends to focus on student presentations to other students and the teacher. Active and enthusiastic participation is a must.
In most cases, the groups are small, rarely exceeding 20 and sometimes consisting of only two or three.
As well as attending time-tabled classes and lectures, Study Abroad students are expected to spend considerable time each week on self-directed study; e.g. preparing for classes, writing essays and reading assigned texts from the syllabus. For every classroom hour, it is reasonable to spend one to two hours on self-directed study.
SOAS will provide your home institution with a transcript of grades achieved which they will then convert into your own grading system.