SOAS University of London

Doctoral School

How to apply

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. In some cases prior knowledge of a language may be necessary or advisable. 

Some Departments may have specific entry requirements for its programme, which will be listed on the Departmental pages of the SOAS website.

Guidance for Applying for MPhil/PhD and VRS programmes

An application is only considered complete if the following has been provided:

  1. A formal application form 
  2. A supporting/personal statement 
  3. An up-to-date CV or Resumé
  4. A Research Proposal 
  5. Full academic transcripts of your College/University studies to date (with official translations from the institution or provided by a recognised translator if not in English) 
  6. Copies of your degree certificates (diplomas) (with official translations from the institution or provided by a recognised translator if not in English)
  7. Evidence of your English language proficiency or intention to take a recognised English Language Test
  8. Two references - confidentially submitted by your referees.

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

Incomplete applications, missing any of the above elements, cannot be considered and will not go forward to the Academic Selectors within the Department for consideration.

  • Application
  • Statement
  • CV
  • Proposal
  • Transcripts
  • Certificates
  • English
  • References

Application

Create an account and follow the instructions through to submission. 

Only one application to one Department may be submitted each academic year.

Submission of multiple applications will result in the additional applications being withdrawn.

Statement

A covering letter that explains your motivation for applying to SOAS and to your chosen programme.

It is useful here to outline your skills and experiences that will be relevant to your time at SOAS and how you will perform as a doctoral researcher at the School.

We recommend as a minimum you should aim to write at least a page.

CV

This must cover your formal education and work history with start and end dates clearly displayed. Be sure to account for any gaps. 

Proposal

The Research Proposal (pdf; 113kb)   is a vital part of the application and will be studied in detail by the academic selectors.

Your proposal must:

  • be a minimum of 1,000-2,000 words, and
  • include an outline of your proposed research topic, and
  • include an outline of your proposed research method, and
  • include a one page preliminary bibliography of the source materials you intend to use.

It is often beneficial (although not mandatory) 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 Departments/Centres.

Please note:

  • Any informal expression of interest in your application does not guarantee a formal offer of study will be made.
  • If your application is successful and you are made an offer of study, it is not guaranteed that your proposed supervisor will be the academic you have identified as your preference.

Transcripts

An academic transcript is a record of your study undertaken detailing the courses or modules you studied each year, the mark you received for these and the credit value and level of each module. 

Copies of official transcripts for all qualifications awarded at a degree level or higher must be uploaded to your online application. These transcripts must detail all marks received throughout the duration of your studies.

For applicants with multiple qualifications, the Additional Documents section in the online application should be used to upload documentation for the qualifications that do not fit into the Research Programme Attachments section of the online application.

Please note, for all qualifications awarded we cannot consider unofficial transcripts, e.g. screenshots of online services.

Transcripts must be accompanied by official translations made by the administrative authorities at the awarding institution(s) or made by a recognised translator if not in English.

Original hardcopy transcripts are not required at the initial stages of application but may be requested in the event that an offer is made.

Degree Grade Classification Terminology

Please be aware, when entering the ‘Class or Grade Achieved’ for all qualifications awarded that we consider the overall grades and not just the dissertation when looking at the grade classification.

We recommend that applicants use the terminology and classification provided on the official documentation they receive confirming a qualification has been awarded. This prevents any confusion and reduces the risk of an accidental false declaration being made.

Certificates

Degree Certificates (Diplomas)

A degree certificate is the award you receive confirming what specialised degree programme you have graduated from and the title and date of your award. In some countries, your degree certificate is referred to as a Diploma.

Copies of official degree certificates (diplomas) for all qualifications awarded at a degree level or higher must be uploaded to your online application.

For applicants with multiple qualifications, the Additional Documents section in the online application should be used to upload documentation for the qualifications that do not fit into the Research Programme Attachments section of the online application.

Degree certificates must be accompanied by official translations made by the administrative authorities at the awarding institution(s) or made by a recognised translator if not in English.

Original hardcopy degree certificates are not required at the initial stages of application but may be requested in the event that an offer is made.

Degree Grade Classification Terminology

We recommend that applicants use the terminology and classification provided on the official documentation they receive confirming a qualification has been awarded. This prevents any confusion and reduces the risk of an accidental false declaration being made.    

English

English language requirements for doctoral researchers are higher than the requirements expected of Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate students.

Guidance on the School’s English language entry requirements for the PhD programme can be located on the Doctoral School Admissions English language pages of the SOAS website.

We are unable to make a formal assessment of your English language requirement without a formal application being submitted.

Please be aware, English language exemption requests received at application stage will not be considered.

References

We require two acceptable references to be confidentially submitted by the nominated referees for your application. Due to the volume of applications we receive, we are unable to chase referees on your behalf. References should be current and we recommend these are written within a month or two of the application being submitted.

Referee criteria – How to decide who to ask

If you are currently studying or your most recent qualification was awarded within the last three years then we require two academic references for your application. At least one reference must be from your current/most recent place of study.

If your most recent qualification was awarded more than three years ago then you may nominate either academic or professional references for your application.

Academic referees should be able to provide independent comment on your ability to undertake a PhD and should come from a lecturer, teacher, supervisor, etc, who has direct experience of teaching or supervising you during your studies.

Professional references should come from individuals who have direct experience of supervising you, eg. your manager, supervisor, team leader or employer. These should not be submitted from a colleague.

References submitted by friends, family members, colleagues, or through free use email accounts will not be accepted.

Acceptable Reference formats 
  • Postal – the reference should be specifically addressed to SOAS, on headed paper in a sealed, signed envelope supplied directly by the referee or the applicant. Please note that opened hardcopy references supplied by applicants cannot be accepted. The postal address is

     Doctoral School
     SOAS University of London
     Thornhaugh Street
     Russell Square
     London WC1H 0XG

  • Email – the reference must be submitted directly by the referee to dsadmissions@soas.ac.uk and come from an official/institution email account. Emailed references from free-use accounts such as hotmail/yahoo/gmail are not acceptable. References forwarded by the applicant by email are not acceptable;
  • Via the online application system – when you make your application online you are invited to provide email contact details of your referees. Referees will be immediately invited to submit their reference online. Again, references from free-use accounts such as Hotmail/Yahoo/Gmail are not acceptable so please do not provide personal email addresses for your referees. If your referee does not have an institution email account then a reference should be provided in hardcopy format and sent by post.
  • We cannot accept references uploaded by the applicant or emailed from the applicant – these will be removed from your application.