SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

BA Swahili and... (2018 entry)

Please note this programme is not accepting applications for 2019/20

  • Combinations
  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Please note this programme is not accepting applications for 2019/20. However, Swahili language is still available and taught at SOAS.

Prospective students may be interested in our BA African Studies or BA African Studies and ... combined degree programmes.

Swahili, which belongs to the Bantu family of languages, is spoken as a mother-tongue on the east coast of Africa from the southern part of Somalia to the northern areas of Msumbiji (Mozambique) including the islands of Lamu, Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and the Comoros.

Spoken extensively in Tanzania, Kenya, some parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo, Swahili has a long literary tradition, expressed in earlier centuries in the Arabic script, and is rich in oral literature. It is the national language of Tanzania and an official language of Kenya. 

This 4-year degree combines the study of the language of Swahili with another language or discipline. The range of expertise in SOAS with regard to languages and literatures of other regions is unique in UK institutions. Along with proven excellence in other disciplines, such as religious studies, anthropology, art and archaeology, and history, this offers students an unparalleled range of options in choosing their second subject of study. 

Programme Code: See May be Combined With

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

Entry requirements

  • No preliminary knowledge of the subject or the language is required, although we do look for ability to learn a language (e.g. language at A-level or equivalent). Applicants with non-standard qualifications may be invited for interview.
  • Subjects Preferred: A foreign language at A level, or equivalent, is preferred
  • Interview Policy: Candidates with ‘non-standard’ qualifications usually invited
A Levels:
A Level language preferred
35 (6/6/5)

View alternative entry requirements


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

Featured events

Combined Honours - 4 years

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


May be combined with:

* Taught at University College London (UCL); apply to UCL only

Key Information Set data

Click on a combined programme to load KIS data


Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

Students must take modules to the value of 120 credits each year. Over the four years students must pass at least 240 credits in Swahili (this includes the course Language in Africa) and at least 150 credits in the other subject.

Students must pass 90 credits in order to proceed to the following year. Students must pass Swahili I in order to proceed to year 2. Students must pass Swahili IIA in order to proceed to year 3.

Students may take open option modules to the value of 30 credits per year in a joint degree as long as the required number of credits for each of the named subjects is passed at the end of the degree.

Year 1
Year 3: Year abroad

Students spend a compulsory year abroad to the value of 120 credits. Please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Core Modules (Year 1)
Module Code Credits Term
Swahili 1 A 155906044 15 Term 1
Swahili 1 B 155906045 15 Term 2
Compulsory Module (Year 1)

Choose the following module

Module Code Credits Term
Language, Identity and Society in Africa 155900867 15 Term 1
Second Subject

60 Credits from second subject

Year 2
Core Module (Year 2)

Choose the following module

Module Code Credits Term
Swahili 2a Intermediate 155900986 30 Full Year
Compulsory Modules (Year 2)

Choose the following 2 modules below

Module Code Credits Term
Realism and Magical Realism in the African Novel 155902005 15 Term 1
Second Subject

60 Credits from second subject

Year 3: Year abroad

Students spend a compulsory year abroad to the value of 120 credits. Please see the Teaching & Learning tab for more details.

Year 4
Compulsory Module

Choose 30 credits from the following modules:

Module Code Credits Term
Sci-fi and Afrofuturism in the African Novel 155902006 15 Term 2
Guided Options

Choose modules to the value of '30 credits' from the 'List of Optional Modules' below

Second Subject

60 credits from second subject

List of Optional Modules

Before selecting a module, student's must first check that it is at the correct level. They must also ensure that they meet any pre-requisites.

Module Code Credits Term
Amharic 1 A 155906036 15 Term 1
Amharic 1 B 155906037 15 Term 2
Amharic 2 155900378 30 Full Year
Hausa 1 A 155906040 15 Term 1
Hausa 1 B 155906041 15 Term 2
Hausa 2(a) intermediate 155900324 30 Full Year
Hausa II(b) Survey Of Hausa Literature 155900818 30
Somali 1 A 155906034 15 Term 1
Somali 1 B 155906035 15 Term 2
Somali 2 155900811 30 Full Year
Swahili 1 A 155906044 15 Term 1
Swahili 1 B 155906045 15 Term 2
Swahili 2a Intermediate 155900986 30 Full Year
Swahili 3 155900635 30 Full Year
Yoruba 1 A 155906038 15 Term 1
Yoruba 1 B 155906039 15 Term 2
Yoruba 2 155900935 30 Full Year
Zulu 1 A 155906042 15 Term 1
Zulu 1 B 155906043 15 Term 2
Zulu 2 155900851 30 Full Year
African Philosophy 155901397 15 Term 1
Philosophy and Decolonisation 155901398 15 Term 2
Black Urban Studies 151230001 15 Term 1
Contemporary African literature 155900839 15 Term 2
Film Festivals and Film Curating 155902002 15 Term 1
Religion in Africa 155901151 30 Full Year
Extended essay in African studies (a) 155900762 15 Term 1
Extended essay in African studies (b) 155901188 15 Term 2
The World of Cuban Music 155800058 15 Term 1
African language literatures (oral and written) 155900677 30 Full Year
Realism and Magical Realism in the African Novel 155902005 15 Term 1
Sci-fi and Afrofuturism in the African Novel 155902006 15 Term 2
Southern Spaces 152900102 15 Term 1
Fictions of History 155901013 30 Full Year
Independent study project in African studies 155900763 30 Full Year
Directed study of an African language 155900934 30 Full Year

Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Year abroad

The third year of the BA Swahili and Another Subject or BA African Language and Culture is spent in Kenya and Tanzania at the following institutions where students are taught by experienced local lecturers and guest speakers, with oversight by SOAS Swahili Year Abroad Convenor. Students are also taken on local tours of places of cultural and historical interest at little or no additional cost. Year abroad programmes run from September to May of the following year and involve 20 to 25 hours of instruction per week. While the syllabus differs somewhat from one institution to the other, the prime focus throughout is on enhancing the students’ reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in Modern Standard Swahili, as well as knowledge of the local varieties of Swahili language, culture and society. 

Term 1: Zanzibar State University (Tanzania)

Term 2: Kenyatta University (Kenya)

Term 3: Students are free to spend Term 3 anywhere in east Africa but there will be no teaching during that term.  

During Term 3 students are expected to write an ISP (Independent Study Project) of 3500 words in Swahili, on a subject of their choice. The essay must be sent to SOAS Swahili Convenor by the last Friday of Term 3.

In order to be admitted to the final year of their degree students will need to have passed the assessments at the year abroad institution, and to have attained a pass grade on their ISP which will be marked by SOAS Swahili Year Abroad Convenor. Students will be encouraged to use feedback to revise and prepare the essay for possible publication.

Students who fail the year abroad examinations or fail to submit their ISPs are deemed to have failed the year abroad.

For general advice on tuition fees, travel arrangements, health and insurance issues see the SOAS Registry Guidelines on the Language Year Abroad.

The SOAS Arabic Section arranges year abroad meetings and briefing sessions where second year students are informed in detail about the year abroad locations and have the chance to meet and consult with returning students.

In determining the safety of year abroad locations SOAS is guided by the relevant Travel Advice published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During their stay abroad it is recommended that students subscribe to the relevant FCO website .

In the final (4th) year study of language and literature is continued at the advanced level. In addition, the freedom to select two other appropriate modules from the list of options gives students the opportunity of specializing in a field of particular interest.

Language degrees are four-year degrees, but students pay reduced fees for the language year abroad.

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

All full-time undergraduate programmes consist of 120 credits per year, taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks). The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study (see Approaches to teaching and learning at SOAS). It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others.

In the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, undergraduate modules take various forms. Modules may be taught through 1 or 2 hours of lectures a week, and some may have an additional 1-2 hours of weekly seminars. Languages classes may be 4-5 hours per week in the first and second year, typically less at higher levels.

More information is on the page for each module.

Language teaching is mostly in small tutorial groups; tapes and language laboratory facilities are available for formal teaching and self-study. Non-language units are taught by lecture and seminar. Students are assessed by a combination of written examination (and oral for language modules) and coursework, including essays and translations.

SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


Students who study Swahili at SOAS develop a wide range of transferable skills such as research, analysis, oral and written communication skills.

Choosing to study a joint degree programme will increase the breadth of your knowledge, and will develop additional skills with which to further your studies of the African continent, or to make comparative study with other areas. Swahili may be combined with a huge range of other disciplines. For more information on the extra skills you will gain from your second subject, please see the relevant departmental page.

Students from the Africa department have chosen non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam; others have found work in education, the media, or in publishing department.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

I study with students from all over the world and it’s refreshing to hear their ideas. There isn’t such a thing as a typical SOAS student – because we’re such a varied bunch! but I think we all share a desire to understand the world around us and proactively work to change it for the better

Clare Amaladoss

Find out more