SOAS University of London

Research Degrees

Research Degree Admissions FAQs

  • How do I apply for a research programme at SOAS?

    Please follow the guidance on our How to Apply page to assist you in making your application.

  • When can I enrol on a research programme at SOAS?

    Please refer to our Entry Points page for further information on the entry points offered for each of our programmes and the completed application deadlines.

  • What is the deadline for applying?

    Please refer to our Entry Points page for further information on the entry points offered for each of our programmes and the completed application deadlines.

    Please remember that applications submitted on the day of the deadline are unlikely to be considered complete in time as an application must include two confidential references and all supporting documents.

  • What information does my supporting/personal statement need to include?

    Please refer to the guidance on our How to Apply page to assist you in writing your personal statement.

  • What information does my research proposal need to include?

    Please refer to the guidance on our How to Apply page to assist you in writing your Research Proposal.

  • Do my qualifications meet the eligibility criteria?

    We are unable to make a formal assessment on whether your qualifications meet the eligibility criteria without a formal application being submitted and initially assessed.

    The School's minimum entry requirement for applying for the PhD and VRS programmes is a good UK Master's degree (or overseas equivalent), which is generally in a relevant area to the programme you are applying to. Some Departments may have specific entry requirements for its programme, which will be listed on the Departmental pages of the SOAS website.

  • Can I submit my application before I have finished my current studies?

    Yes. Your application can be considered using the transcript marks you have achieved to date. If your application is successful, any offer issued will be conditional on upon the completion and award of the qualifications you are currently studying.

    Please be aware, it is not possible to be enrolled at another institution at the time you are due to enrol at SOAS. If your application is successful and your current studies will not be completed by the date you are due to enrol, your offer may be conditional on the withdrawal from this programme.

  • What happens if I won’t be awarded my studies until after the start of the SOAS term, e.g. UK Masters degrees that are conferred in the autumn?

    In the event that you are made an offer and it is clear that you will have completed but not be awarded the Master’s degree before the enrolment date, the offer is likely to include a progression requirement (a post-enrolment condition) of achieving the degree at a specified grade before the end of the first term at SOAS – this is normally December if you enrol in September. In the event that you do not achieve the degree, or level of degree stipulated, you may be required to withdraw from the programme and lose any fees paid for the first term.

  • Do I need to contact a potential supervisor before I submit my application?

    It is often beneficial (although not mandatory, as supervisory availability is one of the issues that will be considered by our academic assessors) to make contact with an academic at SOAS who shares your research interests prior to the submission of your application.

    Academic staff can be found and contacted through their Schools/Departments/Centres.

    You should not delay submission of your application whilst contacting academic staff.

  • What kind of references do I need to obtain?

    Please refer to the guidance on our How to Apply page for further guidance on what type of references you need to obtain.

    References should not come from prospective supervisors and should be independent of the application process.

  • How do I arrange a reference to support my application?

    Due to the volume of applications we receive, Doctoral School Admissions are unable to contact referees on behalf of an applicant to request submission of an application. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that one acceptable reference is confidentially submitted by the completed application deadline.

    When you complete your application, if you nominate a referee as ‘offline’ you will need to contact your referee directly to request them to submit their confidential reference in one of the approved formats.

    When you complete your application, if you nominate a referee as ‘online’ and provide an acceptable email address for the referee, they will receive an automatic email through the online system notifying them of the nomination.

    Please refer to the guidance on our How to Apply page for further guidance on references.

  • Can I amend referee details once I’ve submitted my application?

    Once you have submitted your application for consideration, you are unable to make any further changes to your application.

    To nominate further referees for your application, you can either:

    • Ask your referee to send their reference directly to (from their official institution or professional organisation email account) quoting your application number and name in the subject line, OR
    • Provide us with the following information for your referee and we will add their details as an online referee to your application; First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Position/Title, Company/Institution, Relationship to you. 

    Please do remember references from free use email accounts cannot be accepted. Further guidance on references can be located on our How to Apply page.

  • I studied for my undergraduate and/or postgraduate degrees in the English language; do I still need to take an English test?

    Due to strict requirements from the Home Office and the need to treat all International students and non-native English speaker students in the same way, we require all students, who have been educated outside one of the Home Office list of majority English speaking countries (or educated for less than three years at degree level within one of these countries), to submit a Secure English Language Test (SELT) * relevant to the study of academic English. Even where students have studied in a Home Office listed majority speaking country for more than three years, SOAS Doctoral School may still require an English test.

    Please refer to further information on the English Language requirements for detailed information.

    *  Please note - During the Covid-19 lockdown, non-SELT tests (the online Duolingo and the TOEFL IBT At Home) will be accepted for September 2020 entry for ALL PhD applicants. SELT tests will be required as normal when test centres reopen.

  • I have been made an offer with an English language test required. Can I apply for an exemption?

    Please write directly to Doctoral School Admissions ( stating the grounds on which you think an exemption should be granted and submitting any relevant scans of document originals to support your request. Exemption requests are not guaranteed, and will be decided at the discretion of the SOAS English assessor. Exemptions are only considered if made by an offer holder.

    Exemption requests made by applicants, who do not yet hold an offer of study, will not be considered.

  • Do I need to take an English test before I submit my application to SOAS?

    No, although it is recommended that you book your place for one as soon as you can because places for testing do fill up quickly. Your SOAS application can initially be considered without evidence of your English language ability but in the event that you are made an offer, it may be conditional upon passing a School approved English test. You will not be permitted to enrol at the School without this.

    Further information on the English Language requirements.

  • I've applied for the wrong programme, how do I amend my application?

    If you have applied for the wrong programme on your application form you will need to email the Doctoral School Section at to amend your application.

    Applications can only be amended prior to the application going forward for academic consideration in the School/Department/Centre.

  • Why is my application still pending?

    Your application will only be initially assessed once two references have been confidentially submitted by your nominated referees. At the time the initial assessment is made, the Doctoral School Admissions team will check that all required documentation has been uploaded and that the two references are acceptable and meet our requirements.

    Incomplete applications, cannot be considered and will not go forward to the Academic Selectors within the Department for consideration. If your application is found to be incomplete at the time the initial assessment is made, you will be emailed advising what is missing and how this can be provided.

    Detailed information on what a complete application consists of can be located on our How to Apply page.

  • How long does it take for a decision to be made on my application?

    Your application will only be initially assessed once two references have been confidentially submitted by your nominated referees. Applications deemed incomplete will not be forwarded for academic consideration until they are deemed complete.

    Once your application is considered complete and is forwarded to the Department for consideration you will be notified by email. From this point, it may take between five to eight weeks for a decision on your application to be returned. The Departmental Office may ask you to have an interview or you may need to provide further information before a decision can be reached.

  • Who can I contact for an update on my application?
    Application Not Yet Assessed

    You should log into your application account to check whether your references have been confidentially submitted and to send reminder emails to your referees.

    Application has gone forward to the Department for consideration

    If it has been more than eight weeks since your application was sent to the Department/Centre for consideration without receiving an update, you may contact Doctoral School Admissions by email at

    Please note, when a decision has been made you will be informed online by Doctoral School Admissions. Due to the Data Protection legislation requirements, decisions will not be given by telephone.

  • My application was unsuccessful, can I reapply?

    Only one application to one Department is permitted each academic year. Submission of multiple applications, will result in the additional applications being withdrawn.

    If you wish to reapply after an unsuccessful application, you will need to wait until the online system opens to applications for the following year. At that time you will need to create a new application account in order to submit a new application.

  • My application was unsuccessful, can I have feedback?

    There may be many reasons why an application is unsuccessful; it could be:

    • your current qualifications do not meet the eligibility requirements of the School or that the Department/Centre expect higher qualifications as the competition is high;
    • your research proposal was not considered strong enough;
    • there wasn’t an available supervisor;
    • the School may recommend that you apply for and complete a Master’s degree in a relevant subject before reapplying for the research programme.
    • Alternatively, your application may not have been complete by the completed application deadline and was subsequently withdrawn from consideration.

    Academic feedback is not guaranteed and is given at the discretion of the Academic Selectors. If you would like to request feedback on your unsuccessful application please request this by email to

  • Can I transfer my research from another institution to SOAS?

    Transfer cases are rare and it is not always possible to consider a transfer request.

    If you are interested in the possibility of transferring your current research to SOAS, please email your enquiry to Doctoral School Admissions at, clearly stated your interest in transferring, so we can ascertain whether you meet the eligibility criteria for this.

    When you email us please provide us with a detailed account of your current studies to date and the reason the transfer is requested.