SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Department of Anthropology Undergraduate Handbook

  1. The SOAS Environment
  2. Living and studying in London
  3. Introduction to the Department
  4. Faculty Office Contact Details
  5. Social Anthropology
  6. Entrance Requirements
  7. How to Apply
  8. Teaching in the Department of Anthropology
Organization of the Department
  1. Academic staff members of the Department
  2. Student members of the Department
  3. Student representation
  4. Contacting members of staff
  5. The Faculty Office
Sources of Advice
  1. In the Department
  2. In the School
  3. In general
Academic Tutors
  1. Course convenors and course tutors
  2. Academic Advisors
  3. Undergraduate tutors
Managing Your Programme of Study
  1. Registration procedures and course commitments
  2. Course documents/Reading Lists
  3. Timetable and time-keeping
  4. Attendance and absence
  5. Essay regulations
  6. Problems or queries
Teaching/Learning Methods
  1. Lectures
  2. Tutorials
  3. Coursework
  4. Active learning and core skills
  5. Essays
  6. Plagiarism
School courses on learning methods
  1. Teaching/Learning Resources
  2. Libraries: SOAS (Main) Library
  3. Ethnographic film
  4. Information technology
  5. Other resources outside SOAS
  1. Students’ assessment of courses
  2. Late Submission of Coursework
  3. Resubmission of Coursework
  4. Examinations
  5. Independent study projects
  6. The reporting system: attendance register/coursework marks
  7. School prizes
  8. Undergraduate Essay Marking Criteria
Vacations and Intermissions
  1. Vacations projects and travel grants
  2. Intermitting
  3. VSO/ODA Overseas training programme
  1. SOAS & University of London services
  2. Postgraduate study
  3. References
  4. Staying in touch
Safety and Security
  1. Personal Safety and Security
  2. Property
Degree Programmes
Undergraduate Degrees in Social Anthropology
  1. A Guide to the Degree Syllabus as a Whole
  2. BA Social Anthropology
  3. BA Social Anthropology and another subject
  4. Sample Readings

1. The SOAS Environment

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) received its Royal Charter and became a College of the University of London in 1916. In 1943 it moved to the present Russell Square campus in Bloomsbury which was greatly extended with the completion of the New Building in 1973, and again with the Brunei Gallery in 1995. This campus is situated close to the British Museum and the Senate House Library. 

SOAS is now one of the leading centres of Asian and African Studies in the western world, and its academic staff of about 250 is the largest concentration of scholars concerned with the whole of Asia and Africa at any university in the world. Including the Department of Anthropology and Sociology there are five other departments within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities; Art and Archaeology, History, Music and the Study of Religions, as well as the Centre for Media and Film Studies. The Library, which contains around 1,500,000 items, acts as a national lending library in the fields it covers. The School sees its role as providing for the integrated study of Asian and African societies in all their aspects. At the same time it ensures that, with the great importance of Asia and Africa in the modern world, Asian and African Studies have their proper place as a normal part of the education of Western society.

In any one year about 4,600 students are taught at SOAS of whom 45% are from outside the UK, creating a genuinely international atmosphere.  

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2. Living & Studying in London

There are several halls of residence close to the School which cater for undergraduates and postgraduates, and there is accommodation for families. The convenience and good value represented by the halls of residence are reflected in demand for their facilities invariably being greater than the places available. The main residences used by SOAS students are International Hall, London House, Lilian Penson Hall, Hughes Parry Hall, and Commonwealth Hall.

SOAS has two Student Residences, Dinwiddy House and Paul Robeson House. The Residences are on Pentonville Road which is about fifteen minutes walking distance from Russell Square. They house over 800 students in individual study bedrooms with modern ensuite shower facilities and shared self-catering kitchen/dining rooms in ‘family’ groups of six. The student population is approximately 50% undergraduate and 50% postgraduate. Prospective students from outside the London area will normally be given preference. However, all valid applications will be considered. Further details may be obtained from the Registry.

Members of the School have access to the University medical and dental services. The School has a full-time Student Welfare Officer and trained counselling staff who can provide advice and support on welfare matters.

The School’s central position allows easy access to the great museums and libraries of London as well as those other facilities to be found in a capital city. For the student of anthropology in particular there are the splendid ethnographic collections and Centre for Anthropology in the British Museum and the Horniman Museum (London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23); there are also many public lectures and other events arranged by the Royal Anthropological Institute and a number of specialist anthropology societies in London.

The University of London Students Union (ULU) is situated nearby and has a wide range of recreational and sports facilities.

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3. Introduction to the Department

The Department of Anthropology was founded in 1950 and has become one of the leading Departments of Anthropology in the country. All members of staff are engaged in research, scholarship and teaching. Our research, research training, and our advanced coursework MA degrees have all in the past been awarded the highest categories of recognition and approval by the national Higher Education and Social Science policy-making and funding organizations (HEFCE and ESRC). 

The results of the 2008 United Kingdom Research Assessment Exercise took the form of profiles spread across four grade levels. Hence, there are different ways to present them and to rank the departments. In their published tables, the Times Higher and the Guardian Education chose to use an average of the profile or GPA (Grade Point Average); both rankings placed the SOAS Department of Anthropology equal second, just behind Cambridge, and sharing a GPA of 2.95 with the LSE. This is a particularly significant achievement given that SOAS is the only top-ranked department to specialize, more or less exclusively, in the peoples and diasporas of Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle East. 

The SOAS Department of Anthropology was amongst the highest rated in the most recent university guides.

The BA, MA and research degree programmes are subject to review and transformation as the discipline and the world around us change. The role of student members of the Department is crucial in this process and we encourage dialogue not only about the content and methodology of the discipline of social anthropology, but also about the whole teaching and learning experience itself.

This Handbook offers a guide to the life of the Department and the organization of your programme of study. Even so it is in many respects only a summary and should be read in conjunction with your individual course documents (especially all course cover sheets) and other authoritative School documents (especially the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook, which is given to all students at registration, and SOAS Library Rules). The SOAS Undergraduate Handbook sets out certain standard procedures, requirements and obligations, which you are expected to know and follow. Considerate attention to all these materials should help to make life more rewarding for everyone!

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4. Arts & Humanities Faculty Office

Contact details, office hours and student specific details can be found on the Faculty Office Web Page


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5. Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is an academic discipline which in many respects straddles the social sciences and humanities. It has drawn theoretical inspiration from such disciplines as philosophy, linguistics and literature, as well as from sociology and history, and these subjects have taken much from social anthropology in their turn.

The methods of social anthropological investigation continue to emphasise the detailed study of relatively small areas of social life, through long term participation and linguistic familiarity (localities, communities, institutions, specific social practices and themes of cultural discourse, such as food, ideas of selfhood, evil, death, violence, to name just some recent interests). Much anthropological work is also based on written, visual and other primary recorded sources. However defined, the focuses characteristically are on a range of aspects of social life: economic, political, cultural, domestic, personal and so on. At the same time there is a continuous effort to relate the particular to the universal, that is, to relate detailed and local studies to larger, more inclusive social contexts, national societies, global social systems, and their histories.

Social anthropologists now work in all regions of the world - in advanced industrial societies, in the industrialising and agrarian countries of the South, as well as among the small-scale societies which are now often marginalized on the peripheries and in the interstices of national societies, states, and world-scale economic systems.

In addition to their commitment to produce knowledge and understanding of social and cultural forms throughout the world, anthropologists also endeavour to clarify the problems that underlie attempts to translate and interpret other people’s values and ways of life, and conflicts and misunderstandings between them. These two areas of interest might be termed respectively ethnography and critical theory.

A third special interest has been called ‘anthropology in practice’. Social anthropologists are here concerned to collaborate with others, through research and consultation, in practical processes of policy-making and planning, organization and administration, and in the implementation and evaluation of social projects both at home and elsewhere. For example, the anthropological perspective can help to ensure that the more detailed features of small group organization and interpersonal relationships, and the less palpable cultural dimensions of social life, are not neglected in development programmes, whether in village or government ministry. The writings of ‘practising’ anthropologists tend to be inter-disciplinary and complement rather than conflict with the work of economists, geographers, medical personnel, lawyers, political scientists etc.

Who is an anthropologist? A classic answer, which might have been regarded as valid some twenty years or so ago, would have been someone with a postgraduate research degree (M.Phil. or Ph.D.) in Social Anthropology holding a teaching and/or research post in a university - normally in a Department of Anthropology. Today there are, in addition, professional anthropologists in Departments of Sociology, History, Tropical Medicine, Archaeology, Geography and in Civil Service Colleges and elsewhere; there is an increasing number working in development administration, community relations programmes, and at many levels and branches of general education, social welfare, and in creative and media worlds (including film and TV). Other anthropologists have taken up employment overseas with UN agencies or non-governmental organizations (including development and relief agencies such as OXFAM, Save the Children etc.), while some are working as freelance consultants.

Sometimes students who graduate with a BA degree in Social Anthropology (or a two-subject degree with Social Anthropology as a major component) continue their training and research in anthropology or in other disciplines. The majority, however, continue their specific vocational potential making use of a first degree (BA) in Social Anthropology (with or without a second subject) which is now regarded by employers as an excellent broad university level training, suiting the holders to a wide range of employment opportunities and restricting them to none. The value and relevance of the discipline are brought out in the great variety of jobs our graduates have embarked on with success.

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6. Entrance Requirements

From school leavers and those who have recently left school, we currently require three ‘A’ level or equivalent passes at a very good standard (AAA and 38 points at IB or equivalent). Mature students (aged 21 or over) may be considered on the basis of alternative qualifications and experience. Unlike some disciplines we do not require applicants to have ‘GCSE’, ‘A’ or ‘AS’ level passes in particular subjects, nor would any subject disqualify an applicant. Successful applicants may have a science or arts or social science specialisation or a mixture of subjects.

There is no particular advantage in having studied seemingly related subjects (sociology, economics, government, religious studies, etc.). Evidence of a good broad education is likely to be an advantage, as is evidence of an ability to analyse, formulate an argument and criticise ideas and above all a burning curiosity. An interest in ‘exotic’ peoples and places is not enough; indeed a better foundation is a good knowledge of the history and culture of one’s own society (whatever that may be), coupled with an unprejudiced willingness to learn of others. Like any good university education a course in social anthropology is a demanding and challenging experience - even unsettling in the way it raises questions about the basis of previously held cultural assumptions and ethical certainties, leading to a development of one’s basic beliefs and values.

Students of social anthropology at SOAS come from a great variety of social, cultural and educational backgrounds. In any one year there are likely to be students from several countries, and there is likely to be a good mix of ages, ranging from recent school leavers, young people who have taken a year or two off after leaving school to gain experience, to students in their late twenties and thirties (and occasionally beyond) with very varied work experience and professional knowledge.

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7. How to Apply

If you are interested in applying for one of the BA courses described in this booklet (BA Social Anthropology or BA Social Anthropology and another subject) we should be glad to send you the illustrated SOAS Undergraduate Prospectus which has further details of courses offered at the School, admissions procedures and information about the School generally. 

Please telephone 020 7898 4034,
email: or write to:

The Student Recruitment Office
School of Oriental & African Studies
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG

You can also request a prospectus online

All applications should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). The UCAS Handbook How to apply for admission to a university and an application form can be obtained from your school or from:

UCAS, Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, Glos GL52 3LA

Any questions you have regarding the undergraduate programmes can be sent to the Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Dr. Kevin Latham (

The School receives a large number of applications for Social Anthropology. The School gives equal academic consideration to applications received by UCAS between 1 September and 15 January. Applications received after the 15 January deadline may be considered at the discretion of the School.

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8. Teaching in the Department of Anthropology

A Summary Statement of Educational Provision with special reference to the BA Programmes

The Department of Anthropology teaches the discipline of Social Anthropology with special reference to the countries, peoples, societies and cultures of Asia and Africa, in both contemporary and historical times and spaces. Emphasis may be given to particular regions, themes and approaches according to current trends both in the discipline and in global developments, and also according to the research specializations of academic staff.

Degree programmes are offered at BA, MA and research (MPhil and PhD) levels. Certain individual courses may also be taken as free-floating options by students in other degree programmes and by non-degree students (including Occasional students, Junior Year Abroad). The Department does not participate in ERASMUS programmes. 

This Statement and this Handbook refer chiefly to the undergraduate BA first degree programmes. The Department offers a single-subject BA Honours degree in Social Anthropology and two-subject BA Honours degrees in Social Anthropology and any one of the social science or humanities disciplines taught at SOAS or one of the African and Asian languages taught at SOAS (with a few exceptions). These are all three-year degrees apart from those few four-year degrees in which one scheduled year is spent in an Asian or African country for the purpose of language acquisition.

The three-year programme in Social Anthropology has a foundation year and advances with marked progression to the third year. Four course units are taken each year. There is also an element of modular structure and student choice in all years in the single-subject degree and in most years in two-subject degrees.

Courses may be divided, somewhat simplistically, into the (i) theoretical, (ii) ethnographic or regional, and (iii) thematic or special topic:


All students take theory courses in each of the three years at progressively advanced levels. These are the main disciplinary courses - or what might also be called general or systematic courses. Usually these courses are each taught by teams of three or four teachers.

Ethnography and regional study

All students take a foundation year course in general ethnography of the Asian and African regions, followed by a selected sub-region of Asia or Africa in the second year. Students taking a single-subject degree may choose to take an advanced unit in their selected region and/or a second region in their third year. These courses are usually taught by one or two teachers with research specialization in the region. Most students may have the option of taking a course in an Asian or African language, and this is strongly encouraged.

Specialist options

These thematic courses are normally taken by single honours students in their second or third years, and by joint honours students in their third year. Many are half-units, thus allowing a greater range of specialist options to be studied. Depending on a student’s interests and the space available after other choices have been made, these options may be chosen so as to emphasize one or more of several specialized pathways, for example in theory and methodology, or in broadly ‘development’ related issues, or in arts, media and communications; or they may be chosen to form more mixed and personal combinations. These specialized courses are usually taught by one teacher with research interests in the topic. Occasionally a course may be withdrawn temporarily to permit research leave to staff.

Courses are taught by a combination of methods, principally: lectures, tutorial classes - using a variety of small group methods - seminars, and supervised individual study projects. All courses are assessed, with the exception of a guided programme of ethnographic films which is presented weekly throughout the three years. Methods of assessment include written examinations, assessed coursework essays, and individual study project work. The amount of work that may be assessed by methods other than written examination increases over the years, and in the final year there is an option of writing a 10,000 word independent study project, researched and prepared under supervision.

The family of BA programmes is under the overall care and supervision of the Undergraduate Tutors, who have special responsibility for liaising with other Departments of the School. Personal Advisers provide general counsel and personal help and guidance through the degree programme and if necessary act as an interface and point of onward referral to other professional services in the School and more widely within the University. The Head of the Anthropology Department is also available for consultation, as is the Faculty’s Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching.

There is a system of student representation whereby two students are elected annually from among each year cohort. These representatives can help to convene students from their year and invite members of staff to participate in discussions. Student representatives from all years will meet formally with members of the Department’s Staff-Student Forum once a term to discuss issues arising. Recommendations and action points from these joint meetings will be brought to the attention of members of staff at Department meetings.

By the end of their degree programmes all students will have had opportunities actively and critically to study and learn about the discipline, the concepts, methods and approaches of Social Anthropology and of variations within it. They will have had opportunities to study the applications of these to social relations and milieux, both on a small scale and in relation to larger social entities, in a variety of global locations. Students will specialize in at least one region (one of: Japan, China, South East Asia, South Asia, Near and Middle East, East Africa, West Africa and their diasporas), within a focus which is predominantly on Asia and Africa, but they will also take account of social linkages, cultural forms and experiences on a global scale. To a varying extent the student may specialize in a range of optional topics; each student’s final transcript of courses will demonstrate a highly customised portfolio of work done.

Students are encouraged to think of their learning opportunities as means to develop both specialist knowledge and expertise and also more generally transferable personal skills and capacities. Some of these are generic to all good programmes in the Humanities and Social Sciences, such as abilities to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing in a variety of situations, modes and genres (small groups, debates, committees; writing reports and proposals as well as more speculative essays and so on); the ability to organize an extremely intensive personal and group timetable, and within it to manage private and institutional resources. Some other skills are perhaps more specific to a programme in Social Anthropology. These might include a more than usually developed capacity for empathy and understanding of people in widely differing cultural, social and institutional contexts; an advanced grasp of the difficulties and problems affecting the possibility of communication within and across cultures; a heightened sense of connections between local life and global influences.

Successful finalists in both two-subject and single-subject degrees (provided the former have followed at least all the five required or core courses over three years, including the third year course on ‘Contemporary Trends in the Study of Society’) may claim to be social anthropology graduates and, if they have qualified at an appropriately high level, are likely to be regarded as qualified in social anthropology, for example in applications for higher degrees or positions requiring a first degree in social anthropology.

Our experience is that Social Anthropology is regarded by employers as an excellent broad university-level training, suiting holders of the degree to a wide range of employment opportunities. The value and relevance of the discipline and of the degree programmes offered are shown in the variety and distinction of jobs which SOAS anthropology graduates have embarked on with success.

This general and summary statement is amplified and, where appropriate, qualified in the text of this Handbook.

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9. Academic Staff Members of the Department

The Anthropology Department is part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The Department is managed by the academic staff themselves under the direction of the Head of Department (Professor David Mosse) and the Faculty Dean (Professor Gurharpal Singh) and with the support of Faculty administrative staff.

There is a core academic staff of approximately 18 members. Each year up to a third of staff are likely to be away from the Department for some time conducting research overseas for at least one term. Many staff members will be on research leave during vacations. Alternative arrangements are made for their teaching and pastoral duties during these periods of essential research activity.

In addition the academic staff comprises Research Fellows, Research Associates, and part-time Assistant and Visiting Lecturers who participate in the teaching programmes.

A full list of staff and their academic and administrative titles and functions is found on the Anthropology Department Staff page. The Undergraduate Tutor (Dr Caroline Osella) have overall responsibility for students on BA programmes. The roles of various Academic and Personal Tutors are explained below.

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10. Student Members of the Department

Typically, the Department comprises about 350 students - around half of whom are full time students following three or four year BA Honours degrees (split equally between single subject Anthropology, and some 20 combinations of two subject degrees).

Another 100-110 students are taking one of the Masters degrees (MA Social Anthropology, MA Medical Anthropology, MA Social Anthropology of Development, MA Anthropology of Media, MA Migration and Diaspora Studies, MA Anthropology of Food, MA Anthropology of Travel and Tourism MA Anthropological Research Methods and MA Anthropological Research Methods and Nepali) taught either full time over one year or part time over two or three years. A further 70 or more students are engaged in postgraduate research for MPhil and PhD degrees over three or four years.

Our students include people from a great variety of national and cultural backgrounds and of previous work and life experience. This considerably enhances the quality of the teaching and learning experience within the degree programmes for everyone. For all degrees there is currently a ratio of about 6:4 women to men.

This variety within the student community constitutes a complex, as well as exciting, set of personal academic agendas for students and their academic advisers and supervisors alike. All students are invited to co-operate in helping staff and fellow students to manage this complexity to the highest standards.

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11. Student Representation

At the beginning of each year arrangements are made for the election of two student representatives from each year of the BA programme, usually one single and one joint honours student. During the year, these representatives formally meet staff termly in the Student-Staff Forum. Action points from the forum will be taken up at Departmental meetings which occur frequently. 

Faculty staff will assist student representatives (for instance with room bookings) in organizing other meetings - whether informal meetings with staff or with other students, year forums, discussions of academic matters or social events.

Terms of Reference for Student-Staff Forum
General terms of reference

The Student-Staff Forum includes both staff and student representatives. Its main role is to pinpoint areas which concern students in the Anthropology department, to make recommendations on departmental policy on matters affecting students, and to comment on proposals originated in Departmental meetings.

While all Forum decisions are reported to the Departmental Staff and may well need to be revised to accord with Department or School policies, the Forum is seen to be the first stage of consultation in relation to changes in BA course structure, departmental structure and essay regulations. Students are encouraged to set the agenda for the meetings.

Student representatives on the Forum are seen as the key figures in the process of decision-making. Through these representatives staff hope to learn what general student concerns and needs might be. In return, staff seek to be responsive to student issues. The Forum receives reports on decisions made in departmental staff meetings and student representatives are encouraged to report these to the larger student body.

Structure and membership

The Head of Department chairs the Forum.
The undergraduate element of the Forum consists of the Undergraduate Tutors, Year Tutors, and two student representatives from each of the three years (six in total). It is minuted by Faculty staff.

  • There is a meeting of the Student-Staff Forum each term.
  • Agenda items can come from Departmental meetings, or any student representative.
  • Minutes of the meetings are, as far as possible, circulated within two weeks of the meeting.

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12. Contacting members of Staff

A full list of departmental academic staff is available on the Anthropology Staff page, while admin staff can be found on the Faculty Office page.  If after reading this handbook you are still in doubt as to the right person to see about academic or personal matters, ask in the Faculty Office. There is a list of Department Staff, their roles and contact details alongside the photographs of staff in the corridor outside the Helen Kanitkar Library on the 5th floor.

All members of staff have their names on the doors of their personal offices along the corridor on the fifth floor. They also post outside their doors times when they are normally available for consultation without an appointment. Please try to make your enquiries at those times.

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13. The Faculty Office

The Faculty Office is a source of advice and guidance (for contact details and opening hours, please refer to the beginning of this handbook). The Office can supply various information sheets, for example about essay writing and student services.

If necessary you can make appointments to see staff at other times by e-mail, to which staff will reply within five working days.
The Faculty Office is open during vacations (with reduced opening hours), but academic staff are normally available for consultation during vacations only by previous arrangement. Staff will usually contact you by email. During term-time you should check your Faculty pigeon-hole (located opposite the 3rd floor lift) and your SOAS e-mail account for mail frequently. Notices concerning courses and timetable will be posted on the Anthropology notice-board near the Faculty Office on the 3rd floor. You should check this notice-board regularly.

Here are some ways in which you can help to save time and make things run smoothly. Please:

  • at busy times please wait patiently until someone is free to deal with your enquiry
  • when referring to a particular course use the correct title and course code
  • when submitting essays remember you need to provide two copies and write your full name, ID number, title of course, course code, tutor’s name of the course, essay number and title of essay on the front page
  • respond promptly to requests made via notice-boards, pigeon-holes, e-mail by the Faculty administrative staff
  • inform the Office (and Registry) of any change of address
  • take any enquiry about fees to Registry and note that the Office cannot take personal telephone messages

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14. In The Department

Personal Advisers

Each student has been assigned a person Adviser who teaches in the department you are registered for your degree in; the Adviser may or may not be one of your lecturers. You are required to meet you Adviser three times a year: during registration week to seek approval of the courses you registered online for (or immediately afterwards if you have not already met that person), in term 2 and in term 3. Your advisors’ role is to meet with you to discuss any difficulties you may be experiencing, and to ensure that your studies are progressing satisfactorily. If you need confirmation of who your personal Adviser is, contact the Arts & Humanities faculty office.

If you need confirmation of who your personal Adviser is, contact the Arts & Humanities faculty office.

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15. In The School

Problems which require medical or other sorts of continuous care can be handled through the School. SOAS has a Student Welfare Officer and two Student Counsellors with regular office hours. These counsellors can also refer a student to a regular programme of help when necessary. The Students Union also has a Welfare Service providing advice, information and support. For more information, please check the notice-board opposite the Faculty Office.

SOAS students are eligible to use the University Health Service (details of how to make appointments are posted on notice-boards in the Department of Anthropology and elsewhere, and can be obtained in the Faculty and Students Union Offices) which not only provides medical care, but is also a valuable place to go to for a much broader range of consultations. Sometimes the School Counsellors are booked for some time ahead and the Health Service can provide help in particularly urgent situations (see the section on School Services).

Student Rights and Responsibilities

Grievances against other students or the Department or the School might best be sorted out with department Student Representatives, the Year Tutor, and Undergraduate Tutors. However, if a student is not happy with presenting a grievance within the Department, recourse can be made to their Students' Union Representative or to the Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching or the Registrar - see the section on Student rights and responsibilities in the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook. Please see also Students with special needs.

Please note that SOAS has policies in relation to Equal Opportunity and Freedom of Expression, and has also established guidelines for procedures in cases of sexual harassment. Students who feel discriminated against in any way are encouraged to understand and exercise their rights under these policies. Please see also the section on Student Rights and Responsibilities in the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook.

Students with special needs

The Russell Square campus consists of two interlinking buildings (the old building and the Library building, and the Brunei building and Paul Webley Wing, Senate House) all of which are accessible to students with disabilities. Other sites are not suitable for wheelchair users, so please check with the relevant department first.

The Library is also accessible to people with all levels of mobility. Every effort is made to help students with particular needs.

During examinations please note that the School follows regulations laid down by the University of London. Dyslexic students must inform the Examination Officer well before their examinations, and produce appropriate evidence. Other special needs are considered individually and every effort is made to accommodate and make students as comfortable as possible. Please contact the Student Disability Officers if you have any problems with disabilities: Zoe Davis and Angela Axon (email:, Tel: 020 7074 5018).

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16. In General

The Department has rules about minimum attendance requirements (50% of classes must be attended). Students are expected to attend all relevant and/or required classes, which include, as appropriate to the course, lectures, tutorials, seminars, language classes, and practical sessions. There are penalties for non-attendance which can lead to termination of a student’s degree course (or student’s can be prevented from sitting the end of year examinations).

It is important that you keep your course teachers and Year Tutor aware of problems that may be lead to repeated absences. Documentation is important in such cases: medical certificates, letters of explanation, etc. Letters will be sent to students following two consecutive unexplained absences, copies of these will be sent to the Registry and kept on the student’s file.

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17. Course Convenors and Course Tutors

A Course Convenor oversees the organisation of a given course and often gives the lectures for the course as well (the first year course Voice and Place is the exception, where the Course Convenor will chair the lectures). The Course Convenor stays in touch with any course tutors who may be teaching the smaller tutorial classes; this is especially true of core courses. For second and third year options, the Course Convenor will often also teach the course classes. If students feel that they are having problems with a particular course, they should consult with that Course’s Convenor and their Course Tutor in the first instance.

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18. Academic Advisors

As described above (Sources of Advice), the Academic Advisor is there for general support. Academic Advisors can provide general counsel and personal help and guidance through the degree programme. If necessary they act as an interface and point of onward referral to other professional services in the School and more widely within the University.

If you find that you are having general problems coping with all your coursework, or if you feel uncomfortable discussing particular problems for one course, you should see your Personal Adviser.

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19. Undergraduate Tutor

The Undergraduate Tutor has overall responsibility for the degree programme. The UG Tutor liaises with other departments to ensure that the study programmes of two subject degree students are well co ordinated. The Undergraduate Tutor is available for consultation on all problems, but only after a student has already aired the issues with either Course Tutors or their Personal Adviser. The Undergraduate Tutor will take decisions about changing classes, changing courses on advice from other Advisers/Tutors in the Department and with helping students steer through School requirements and regulations.

Students should note, however, that it is Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching (Dr Lukas Nickel) who has the final say on many of these issues and that an Undergraduate Tutor will refer some problems to the Associate Dean.

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20. Registration Procedures and Course Commitments

Effective management of your time (and energies) is vital for your well-being and success as a student. In your first week or two there are quite a number of schedules to be worked out, forms to complete, and courses to be signed for, in addition to much new information which you will need to assimilate. Thereafter you have certain time-keeping and attendance commitments for your courses, deadlines for submission of essays, examination entry forms to hand in, and pre-arranged undertakings for tutorial sessions.

It is important that you give attention to these formal schedules, but it is just as important that you organize the rest of your time appropriately and effectively enough to enable you to honour these formal commitments.

The responsibility for managing your study-time effectively is, inevitably, yours. One of the personal skills expected of you as a university student is a capacity to organize your programme of study in a viable and self-disciplined manner.

Registration Procedures and Course Commitments

One aspect of initial registration involves signing on for the courses which you are going to follow in the coming session. The Undergraduate Tutors will help you decide which courses you should take. All new students must provide 1 passport-sized photograph to the Faculty Office.

In any one year you must take courses to the value of four course units - no more, and no less. Each year there are core courses which are obligatory for your degree pathway, and (with the exception of some two-subject degrees) other courses of an optional nature. 

You will be given examination entry forms to complete at the end of the first term.

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21. Course Documents/Reading Lists

The Course Document comprises the Reading List for the course together with a Cover Sheet which outlines the aims, itinerary, format, procedures, expectations, coursework requirements, essay regulations and other useful data concerning that course.

Course Documents will be distributed by teachers in the first class of each course. You will need to make constant reference to the Course Document, and to familiarize yourself with its contents, particularly the course expectations and requirements. You are advised to keep your Course Documents handy - also, your copy of this Handbook and various other texts such as the School’s Rules and Regulations for Students, Department Library Regulations, and SOAS Library Rules. If you lose a Course Document, you should download it from the BLE. 

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22. Timetable and Time-Keeping

You can collect a blank timetable grid at your registration. You should endeavour to find out and record the times of your lectures and tutorials promptly to ensure a smooth start in the first week of classes. Note that your programme over the first few days of the year is likely to differ from your regular weekly commitments thereafter.

The three first-year anthropology courses (Introduction to Social Anthropology, Social Theory, and, for single-subject students only, Voice and Place) involve a two-hour lecture in the first part of the week, followed by one-hour tutorial classes later in the week.

The times of lectures are fixed, and are designed, where possible, not to clash with lecture commitments you may have in other Departments. If the time-slot for one of your lectures coincides with that for a tutorial class, then the lecture takes precedence, and you should ask to be in a tutorial class at another time. Membership of tutorial classes will be allocated in the first week of term. This is an exceedingly complex task and, should you be involved in courses not taught in the Department of Anthropology (e.g. an Asian or African language or a course taught in another discipline department) you will need to pay particular attention to potential time-table clashes. If you have caring, work or other commitments which make particular times awkward for tutorial classes, you should inform the Undergraduate Tutors at registration and they will try their best to accommodate you accordingly.

A master timetable is displayed on the Anthropology notice-board along the Faculty Office corridor but you are advised to check the most up-to-date timetable on the web. Tutorial groupings will be publicized there, too. You should check the Anthropology notice-board regularly, especially in the first few days of term, for general information about courses, and possible timetable amendments.

Lectures and tutorial classes commence promptly at five minutes past the hour, and finish at five minutes before the hour, which should allow sufficient time to transfer from one class to another.

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23. Attendance and Absence

Attendance at lectures and classes is compulsory, and will be monitored. Departmental regulations stipulate penalties that failure to attend more than 50% of classes may result in a student being barred from that course’s examination.

If absence from a class is due to illness, then you should, where possible, submit a medical certificate - this is particularly important when absence is prolonged, or leads to late submission of coursework (see separate section on the ‘Late Submission of Coursework’ further down on procedures to be taken if deadlines cannot be met).

Please talk with your Year Tutor or class teachers if you are experiencing, or are about to experience, problems which you feel impinge upon your work and/or cause you difficulties with attendance. It is usually best to share such difficulties with a concerned member of staff who will be able to advise you, in confidence, on the best way to cope.

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24. Essay Regulations

Essay requirements for each course are outlined in the course documents.
Be warned that ignorance of requirements will not be accepted as an excuse for failure to meet the regulations/deadlines! Coursework submitted after the Final School deadline (Friday 27th April 2012) will not be assessed and the mark recorded will be zero.
For information about submission of coursework, please refer to the section ‘Late Submission of Coursework’.

The deadline date for the submission of Extended Essays and Independent Study Projects (ISP) is the Final School Deadline (i.e. Friday 26th April 2013).

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25. Problems or Queries

If you have any problems or queries concerning the management of your programme of study, or matters of timetable and timekeeping and the like, please do not hesitate to broach the matter, or share your concern, with a member of staff (e.g. your Personal Adviser or Class Teacher).

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26. Lectures

Most courses involve a one-hour (actually 50-minute) lecture as a key component. We have sought to schedule all core course lectures in the early part of the week, with the linked tutorial classes slotted into the last two days of the week.

The lecture serves as a vehicle by means of which a new topic can be introduced, the terms of associated debates and theories outlined, and suggestions for your further investigation of the topic framed. Ideally the lecture serves as a basis and catalyst for your further reading and research into the subject. It is not a substitute for your own independent reading and study.

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27. Tutorial Classes

In some courses students will receive marks for performance and participation in tutorials and seminars, and there is the negative sanction that persistent non-attendance will lead to disqualification from the examination. Some emphasis is put on group work and working co-operatively with others - which makes a competitive ethos inappropriate.

Tutorials have the vital function of enabling students to test or formulate their ideas and understandings in a sympathetically conducive forum, allowing them to create knowledge, not just assimilate and regurgitate information. A good tutorial class will be one in which you have the opportunity to develop your competence and confidence with respect to applying concepts and principles in the analysis of problems; and in reflecting upon theoretical propositions and precepts. A good tutorial session will also be one in which you are given scope to engage actively in learning the discourse of anthropology with its concomitant problem-addressing, interactional, and communication skills. For such active learning to be successful, there is a requisite responsibility, on your part, to prepare adequately in advance.

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28. Coursework

The precise coursework requirements for each course you take are indicated on the course cover sheets which accompany reading lists (or ask your tutor). It is your responsibility to acquaint yourself with this information.

Coursework is an important part of your undergraduate study, and not just because it contributes toward your overall mark for a course. Written coursework serves to give tutors an indication of how well you have assimilated a body of knowledge, how sound is your grasp of key concepts and principles, how capably you can critically appraise material, and how articulately and effectively you can construct an argument. Perhaps more importantly, it is only through your own concerted working out of ideas and understandings, and your active efforts at problem-solving and deploying material, that sustainable (not just measurable) progress in your learning and comprehension can be developed.

Not all coursework is assessed, but all courses involve some element of essay work which is assessed and contributes to your overall result for that course. (Some courses are assessed entirely by coursework.)

Not all coursework takes the form of written work that is assessed. Some of your most important work is neither formally marked nor an individuated contribution. For some courses one or more students may be made responsible for leading (perhaps organizing) tutorial sessions. When that is the case, then the student or students have an especial obligation (not least to their fellow students) to prepare sufficiently - irrespective of whether the presentation (or equivalent) is to be the basis for assessed written work.

All undergraduate courses and some postgraduate courses have their essays submitted electronically.  Full guidance for electronic submission can be found on the Arts & Humanities Faculty -> Information for Students -> Online Coursework Submission pages of the SOAS website.  

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29. Active Learning and Core Skills

Active learning assumes a sufficient degree of maturity on the part of students to work independently of formal classroom encounters. All in all, the assessed element of coursework is an iceberg tip, sustained by continuous and committed (though submerged from view) endeavour that is not formally assessed.

Though academic performance as measured by essays and exams is undoubtedly the most visible and vital product of your undergraduate career, we feel that due emphasis should be given to the development of a range of life skills, or ‘personal transferable skills’, which are not necessarily calibrated fully in terms of your degree result per se.

Such life skills include interactional skills (ability to co-operate in a team, empathy for the views of others, capacity to organize group behaviour), communication skills (computer literacy, ability to make effective oral presentations, report writing, etc), and the capacity to apply an anthropological perspective to everyday, extracurricular and, eventually, career situations and challenges. In references for students we seek to indicate our judgement of your competence in such directions.

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30. Essays

The ability to communicate effectively and in a literate manner by means of essays has traditionally been the key measure of students’ academic performance. It remains crucial that you develop your capacity to write well-structured, properly-referenced, and cogently argued essays. In itself, this is a core ingredient of active learning and certainly a valuable life skill.

All courses involve at least an element of written coursework which is formally assessed. Essays must be properly referenced, and plagiarism will not be condoned (see the School statement on plagiarism below). Tutors, on returning essays, will give a grade together with adequately detailed comments on the merits or otherwise of the essay.

There will be revision sessions for each of the courses you take. Feedback comments from teachers on your essays will give you an indication of how well you are doing, and suggest how improvements might be made.

Guidelines on how to write essays on the faculty website under Arts & Humanities Faculty -> Information for Students -> Forms & Handbooks -> Student Guidance for Essay Writing (or you could pick up a hard copy from the Faculty Office)

Note that the mark awarded for coursework submitted after stipulated deadlines will be penalised where the Examinations Sub-Board considers that the late submission is without good cause (see section on “Late Submission of Coursework”). Course work requirements, deadlines and penalties for late submission are set out in the Degree Regulations Sections of the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook.

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31. School Statement on Plagiarism

Students are reminded that all work submitted as part of the requirement for any examination of the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) must be expressed in their own words and incorporate their own ideas and judgements. Plagiarism - that is, the presentation of another person's thoughts or words as though they were the student’s own – must be avoided. Direct quotations from the published or unpublished work of others must always be clearly identified as such by being placed inside quotation marks, and a full reference to their source must be provided in proper form. A series of short quotations from several different sources, if not clearly identified as such, constitutes plagiarism just as much as does a single unacknowledged long quotation from a single source. Equally if students summarise another person’s ideas and judgements, they must refer to that person in their text as the source of the ideas and judgements, and include the work referred to in their bibliography. Failure to observe these rules may result in an allegation of cheating. Students should therefore consult their tutor or supervisor if they are in any doubt about what is permissible.

Where students draw on their own previous written work, whether submitted as coursework for their current degree, or for a previous degree or qualification, this must be clearly stated.

Coursework essays submitted for one course may not be used for another course without acknowledgement and prior approval.

Plagiarism is an examination offence.

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32. School Courses on Learning Methods

The School runs various courses and talks on learning methods and study techniques. These include sessions early in the year on ways of improving methods of study and managing study-time, and later in the year, on revision techniques for exams. These will be announced on notice-boards and there is no charge for attendance.

The School offers English language and study skills provision for international students. Some courses (for some of which there is a charge) are for students who wish to improve their general essay-writing ability, and for students (whose first language is not English) who want to develop the fluency with which they can read and write English for academic purposes.

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33. Libraries

There are two libraries to which you have access as a SOAS Anthropology student. You should become familiar with them, their strengths, layout, catalogues, loan regulations etc from the start and learn to use them to best advantage.

SOAS (Main) Library

Try to become familiar from an early date with the principal sections you will need:

Teaching collection
General Collections
Regional Collections
Periodicals and current periodicals room
Social Science Reading Room (for reference works)

Anthropology Department: Helen Kanitkar Library 

Contains various materials used on BA and MA courses, DVDs and videos. There are also computing facilities for preferential use of research students. The Library depends much on voluntary student and staff support both in running it and for donations.

A strict honour code is an essential condition of this collection working well for students.

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34. Ethnographic Film

Every Wednesday during the first and second terms the Department of Anthropology holds a showing of ethnographic films in the Kahlili Lecture Theatre (KLT). These are carefully selected from the collections of the Royal Anthropological Institute and elsewhere and are introduced by people with specialist knowledge. There is usually opportunity for discussion.

All students are strongly urged to take advantage of this superb opportunity throughout their degree programme in order to gain experience of a wide array of historical visual anthropology. It constitutes an essential visual component of most courses in Social Anthropology.

Both the Main Library and the Helen Kanitkar Library have collections of ethnographic films on videotape or DVD, which may be viewed in the libraries or, in certain circumstances, borrowed for viewing elsewhere.

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35. Information Technology

Undergraduates have access to computers in the SOAS Main Library and designated rooms in the School. The School’s Computing Department (IT helpdesk is located in the library reception area) can advise.

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36. Other Resources Outside SOAS 

There is a wealth of resources for anthropology students in London. Note in particular the principal ethnographic collections at: The British Museum and the Horniman Museum (near Goldsmiths College) London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23. The Centre for Anthropology at the British Museum has an extensive library which is generally under-used.

SOAS students also have access to University of London Libraries. Information can be obtained from the Enquiries Desk in the SOAS Main Library. Anthropology students are encouraged to join the Royal Anthropological Institute and receive Anthropology Today. We advise you to become familiar with your local public lending library.

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37. Students' Assessment of Courses

Assessment is nowadays a regular, almost continuous, part of the work we all do in the field of university education, whether as students, researchers or administrators, whether it is assessment of work completed or in progress, whether it is quality of procedures for management and control or of achievements in final results. There are elements of self-assessment, peer group assessment and mutual assessment by students as well as staff.

At the end of each term or course students are asked to make a formal, anonymous assessment of the course (this arrangement does not preclude students from giving feedback about courses earlier in the year, whether directly or via student representatives). A form for each course will be distributed to each student, and the tutor will allow ten minutes or so of class time for students to complete the questionnaire-type assessment and add comments of their own. During this time the tutor will have left the classroom. Sample forms are available for viewing in the Faculty Office

The assessment forms are then returned, with the authors’ anonymity preserved, to the Faculty Office. Thereafter, the forms are set to one side till after the examinations, when they are read by the Heads of Department, and then circulated to the relevant course teachers. There is a strict policy that the assessments are confidential, and that they cannot be viewed by any other persons. Once viewed by the course teachers, the forms are no longer kept on file.

Students’ completion of the assessment forms is vital because it is the primary mechanism whereby students’ experiences of courses can be gauged, yielding valuable information about how effective (or otherwise) provision and teaching has been - in relation to both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of teaching. Accordingly, course teachers have the opportunity to amend their procedures of teaching, or improve other aspects of the course, with the aim of facilitating more effective teaching and learning. (This process may go on-line during the 2011-12 session.)

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38. Late Submission of Coursework

The policy on late submission is explained in the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook. Undergraduate course work submitted late but before the final School deadline (Friday 28th April 2013) will be marked, but the mark awarded will be reduced by 2% for each SOAS working day (Monday – Friday, when the School is open) that the work is late.

If you have a good reason (called “good cause” in the School regulations) for submitting the assignment late, the 2% penalty per day can be waived or reduced at the discretion of the Sub-Board of Examiners (undergraduate). Having several essays due on or around the same day is not a good reason for lateness. Similarly, a book being unavailable in the library is not a sufficient reason for an extension. You should plan your reading and essay writing in advance to avoid this problem. Ignorance of the deadline is also not an acceptable excuse for late submission.

If you are unable to meet a coursework deadline and wish to request that the Sub-Board of Examiners (undergraduate) waive or reduce the penalty, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Go to the Faculty Office (room 329) as soon as you think you might have a problem meeting the deadline.
  2. Collect and complete a Late Submission Request form - ALL parts of the form should be completed.
  3. If you wish, you should contact relevant members of staff to support your claim – student counsellor, year tutor or course tutor. Please inform the member of staff in the case of sensitive personal issues, and the matter will be handled accordingly.
  4. Where supporting evidence is available, this should be attached to the form. This can take the form of a medical note or a letter from your course tutor, year tutor or student counsellor.
  5. All information you provide will be handled sensitively and confidentially, and will be discussed only as necessary to make a decision on your request.
  6. Submit the form (with supporting documentation) to the Faculty Office as soon as you can – certainly no later than the final School deadline.
  7. Submit the coursework as soon as you are able.
  8. All applications will be considered by the June meeting of the Sub-Board of Examiners (UG), to determine any appropriate deduction. The Board will determine what is acceptable evidence and ‘good cause’ in consultation with Registry and the Associate Dean where necessary.
  9. Finally, remember all coursework has a specific deadline. However, any coursework submitted after the School deadline will NOT be assessed and the mark recorded will be ZERO.

If you have any questions about these procedures, please ask at the Faculty Office.

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39. Resubmission of Coursework

Undergraduate and taught masters students who fail a course overall for which the written examination accounts for less than 80% of the overall mark have the opportunity to redeem their failure only in the element(s) they have failed – individual elements of coursework and/or examinations. Some coursework is determined to be unrepeatable, and students will have no opportunity to redeem such elements.

For the above students, passing ANY course following a resubmission/resit will result in the minimum pass mark (40% UG or 50% PG) being recorded.

Resubmission is normally allowed only for individual written pieces of work (such as essays or individual projects). Unless an exception has been formally agreed by the Faculty Board, all other types of assessed work, such as oral presentations or group based work are not eligible for resubmission.

The regulations governing the above will be circulated in more detail with the School Undergraduate / Postgraduate Taught Handbooks 2012/13 at Enrolment.

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40. Examinations

Though some courses are assessed solely by coursework such as the writing of individual dissertations, most courses (and all courses in your first year) culminate in examinations, conducted in the third term. Students who have a course attendance rate of less than 50% in Term 2 will be barred from the course examination - unless there is due cause for absence.

In each year students take courses to the value of four course units. To complete a course, a student’s attendance record must be satisfactory, and an overall mark of 40% must be attained in the course. In the first year, those who are absent from an examination for a reason acceptable to the Sub-Board of Examiners (e.g. illness) will be eligible to take a re-sit examination in September. A student who fails in a first year course with a mark of 20 – 39% will be eligible to take the re-sit exam in September.

Single-subject students, in their first year, will sit three anthropology exams - Introduction to Social Anthropology, Social Theory and Voice and Place - and one exam for a course unit outside Anthropology. Two-subject students take two anthropology exams - Introduction to Social Anthropology and Social Theory - together with examinations for two course units in their other subject.

To proceed into Year 2, first-year students must pass a minimum of three course units, which - for single-subject students - must include both core courses, Introduction to Social Anthropology and Social Theory. Students who fail to achieve this standard can, if eligible, take September re-sit examination(s) or apply to take a leave of absence for a year and re-sit the examinations in the following May/June.

First-year Social Anthropology examinations are of three hours duration. Candidates will write FOUR answers selected from TEN questions. Exam papers for previous years can be obtained from the intranet (via the Faculty of Arts and Humanities homepage). Further details regarding examinations can be found in Degree Regulations and Degree Classification for BA and BSc students in the Undergraduate Handbook. Please keep this carefully and refer to it. If you have queries or concerns about examinations then you can approach either your Course Teacher, your Personal Tutor, or the Undergraduate Tutor for advice. If you have special needs or requirements relating to the examinations (e.g. dyslexia) then please speak with your Personal Tutor or the Undergraduate Tutor early in the year.

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41. Independent Study Projects

You have the opportunity, especially in your final year, to take courses which are examined by essays only (e.g. Principles of Social Investigation ½ course unit, Advanced Ethnographic Essay ½ course unit [both 5,000 words], Independent Study Project 1 course unit [10,000 words]). Such courses are usually more demanding in terms of your capacity to manage time effectively and to conduct research in relatively independent circumstances, but they do give you the chance to delve into a subject area of your own choosing or concoction in much greater detail than can be allowed for in examination-orientated courses. A strong academic standing (minimum 2:1) is expected as a criterion to do an ISP.

In your final year you can normally follow such coursework-assessed courses up to the value of 2 course units; in earlier years you are normally not allowed to exceed (the equivalent of) 1 course unit examined by coursework alone. The deadline for submitting the ISP is the first Monday in Term 3.

For more detailed stipulations concerning Independent Study Projects you should consult relevant course cover sheets, and the code of practice for ISPs, approved by the School and published in the Undergraduate Handbook.

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42. The Reporting System

Various forms of record are maintained on students, in part to meet Registry and LEA requirements, in part to yield a holistic picture of students’ progress, strengths and difficulties, and in part as a resource for the writing of future references for students.

Attendance register: a register of attendance is kept for all courses. Unsatisfactory rates of attendance can be the basis for discontinuing a student’s place on a course.

Coursework marks: a record is kept of marks for essays and other assessed coursework. Though students may receive a letter grade for such work, the marks are recorded as percentages - and may be subject to some review and adjustment at the behest of the External Examiner. Note is also made if work is submitted late, or not at all, together with reasons or excuses.

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43. Prizes 

There is a small prize for the Penultimate Year student of Anthropology judged (by the Head of Department in consultation with the Examination Sub-Board) to be the best student in her/his year. 

For students in their Final Year, there is the Independent Study Project in Anthropology Prize, a small prize awarded by the Head of Department in consultation with the Examination Sub-Board for the best overall project. 

For students in their Final Year there are also three School wide prizes for best graduands. Details of some other School prizes and awards may be obtained from the Registry, and are posted on notice-boards.  

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44. Undergraduate Marking Criteria 

The marking criteria can be found alongside the Marking Policy on the Degree Regulations, Policies and Procedures page.

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45. Vacation Projects and Travel Grants

Anthropology students seem to be especially adept at making good use of the two or three long summer vacations which punctuate their degree programme. There are several ways in which the School and staff can help students to plan and resource their own vacation projects. Second year students may apply for an Undergraduate Vacation Research Award. These are excellent opportunities for developing both disciplinary and personal skills.

Staff assist by talking through your plans, suggesting project activities, writing letters of recommendation, even sometimes suggesting placements, and checking your CV and application. The same advice and so on can be given in support of applications to funding sources outside SOAS; sometimes we can suggest likely sources.

Usually the work done in vacation study and/or action projects can be linked to a final year Independent Study Project (10,000 word extended essay) which counts for one quarter of the final year’s work.

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46. Intermitting

Occasionally students take a year off, or rather add one on, between their second and final years. This may be to travel or work to gain experience. In some ways this is comparable to an extended vacation project, and may lead to a deeply prepared final year Independent Study Project. With careful planning and prior agreement and permission from the School, a year of intermission and suspension of registration can be profitably built into a degree programme. Again staff can offer assistance and advice in many cases. Formal application for a period of leave of absence must be made in writing to the Registrar.

Guidelines on applications for leave of absence by students

Applications for leave of absence must be made to the Academic Registrar on the appropriate form. The power to grant leave of absence rests with the Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching (Dr Lukas Nickel), or the equivalent to this, in each Faculty. Leave of absence is not normally granted between the first and second years of a degree programme.

Requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis, but leave of absence is normally not granted except where there are compelling reasons. These reasons might include certificated illness, pregnancy, or other personal, family, or financial circumstances which, in the judgement of the Associate Dean, would make completion of the degree less likely if leave of absence were not granted. Leave of absence may also be granted if, in the view of the Associate Dean, there is a compelling academic reason for this.

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47. VSO/ODA Overseas Training Programme

For the past few years the Overseas Development Administration, through the VSO, has offered one year training awards to allow British undergraduates under the age of 23 to spend ten months in a less developed country as part of their degree programme. In effect this adds a year between second and final year. Again SOAS and especially Anthropology students have been successful in obtaining these awards, backed by advice and organizational assistance from staff of the Anthropology Department. This too is linked to a final year research dissertation.

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48. SOAS & University of London Services

The following is the text of a summary statement on careers which we wrote for the SOAS Undergraduate Prospectus.

"Anthropologists have a global perspective when they come to make career choices, and the speed and ease of an increasing worldwide communication network expands opportunities to extend understanding of socio-cultural patterns and to translate and interpret the values and life-styles of others. There are thus opportunities for employment of social anthropologists in information technology, the media (radio and television, journalism, filming and photography, and advertising), as well as tourism.

It is not necessary for social anthropologists to go overseas to use their training; in recent years the commercial and banking centres of the City of London have discovered anthropologists; exploration of new overseas markets requires representatives with informed communicative skills. Others are absorbed into government service, into the police (especially police training for a multi-ethnic society) and the prison service - at least one former student is a prison governor. The social sciences and health service administration also have opportunities for trained anthropologists.

The multicultural nature of modern British society has triggered a need in many spheres for staff with a trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities, and our graduates may be found throughout the education service in a variety of schools and colleges, local government administration and Advisery services of many kinds. Libraries and museums look to anthropologists to expand and develop book collections and exhibitions, especially with reference to the art and literatures of Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific.

Some anthropologists still follow a traditional path into academic life, but they are now to be found not only in university anthropology departments, but also in departments of history, tropical medicine, sociology, development studies, geography and archaeology, as well as in Civil Service colleges and elsewhere. An increasing number work in development administration at home or overseas, with UN agencies or non-governmental organizations, including development and relief agencies such as Oxfam, Save the Children, etc, while some are working as freelance consultants.

An anthropological perspective can add to interdisciplinary work by ensuring that the more detailed features of small group organization and interpersonal relationships, and the less palpable cultural dimensions of social life, and social audit issues generally, are not neglected in development and environmental programmes, whether in a village or a government ministry. The value of anthropologically trained staff in development projects is evidenced by the large numbers of graduates who are working in these fields.

Social anthropology is now regarded by employers as an excellent broad university-level training, suiting holders of the degree to a wide range of employment opportunities and restricting them to none. The value and relevance of the discipline are made prominent by the great variety and distinction of jobs SOAS anthropology graduates have embarked on with success."

What will you be doing when you graduate?

Believe it or not, students should start thinking of finding post-graduation employment during their second year of undergraduate study. The School has a variety of ways to help students with this.

SOAS & University of London Services

The School’s Careers Service will help with job listings, interviews during ‘Milkrounds’, putting together CVs, and even organising postgraduate study.

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49. Postgraduate Study

For students who wish to go on to postgraduate work, there is a timetable of appropriate action to take which the Department has put together. If you are interested in going on an anthropology research degree, please consult the departmental Postgraduate Research Tutor early in your third year.

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50. References

Whether a student goes on to postgraduate study or a job, references are obviously important. Students generally ask for references from course tutors whom they know well, but may need more general references which Personal Advisers can provide.

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51. Staying in Touch

The School has an Alumni Office which tries to keep in touch with all graduates. 

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52. Personal Safety and Security

  1. On hearing the fire alarm (continuous ringing bell) please leave the building immediately via the nearest fire exit/staircase. Do not use the lifts.
  2. For the safety of female students and staff, all ladies toilets are fitted with alarms.
  3. First Aid - If you require first aid please ask a member of staff to summon help.

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53. Property

  1. Please do not leave your belongings unattended.
    You are advised not to leave items of value in the student pigeonholes. If you wish to leave items for students, please give them to the Anthropology Office and leave a note for the student advising him/her that you have done so.
  2. Lost property
    Please enquire at the Porters’ Desk (main entrance) of the building you believe you lost the item. Most items that have been found are deposited there. You may also enquire at the Department Office, particularly for items lost on the 5th floor of the main building, Russell Square campus.
  3. Lockers
    Lockers are available for student use. To reserve a locker: select an unused locker and secure with padlock. You must supply your own lock. Lockers must be vacated at the end of the academic year.

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54. A Guide to the Degree Syllabus as a Whole

For further details please consult the section "Degree regulations for BA and BSc students" in the SOAS Undergraduate Handbook.

These terms are used in the same way as in the BA and BSc degree regulations. A core course is a course the examination of which must be passed before a student is eligible to proceed to the next year of his or her degree. A compulsory course is a course which must be taken, but the examination of which need not necessarily be passed for a student to be eligible to proceed to the next year of his or her degree (provided that the other progression requirements of the regulations are met, such as passing in at least three course units per year).

Year 1 Single-Subject
Year 1 Two-Subject  
Year 2 Single-Subject  
Year 2 Two-Subject
  • Ethnography of a Selected Region (totalling to the value of 1.0 unit)
Year 3 Single-Subject  

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55. BA Social Anthropology

Full details on the BA Social Anthropology (Single-Subject) can be found on the Anthropology and Sociology departmental page, under Degree Programmes.

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56. BA Social Anthropology and Another Subject

Full details on the BA Social Anthropology And... (Two-Subject) can be found on the Anthropology and Sociology departmental page, under Degree Programmes.

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57. Sample Readings

Students taking Anthropology may find the following sample reading lists useful for preparing to commence their degree. A course reading list, giving the detailed week-by-week structure of the course, will be handed out and explained to students by the course teacher in the first timetabled meeting of each course. These reading lists are updated annually, and will not be issued before the start of term.

There is no standard textbook for social anthropology, but the following texts are useful introductions to a subject that rarely features in school curricula:

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (2001) Small places, large issues: an introduction to social and cultural anthropology, 2nd edition, London: Pluto Press.

This clearly written book covers a number of ‘classic’ topics, such as kinship, gift exchange and ritual, as well as relatively recent themes in anthropology, including gender, nationalism and globalization.

Layton, Robert (1997) An introduction to theory in anthropology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Barnard, Alan (2000) History and theory in anthropology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

These two books cover very similar ground. Unlike the Eriksen book, which is thematically structured, they are organized according to schools of thought, providing good overviews of major theoretical trends and transitions in anthropology from the nineteenth century to the 1990s.

Kuper, Adam (1996) Anthropology and anthropologists: the modern British school, 3rd edition, London and New York: Routledge.

First published in 1973 and updated several times since, this remains one of the best historical surveys of modern British social anthropology. It provides an excellent introduction to the discipline’s major figures, institutions, works and theories, with a particular focus on the ‘classical’ period from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Hendry, Joy (1999) An introduction to social anthropology: other people's worlds, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

This is a general introduction with useful explanations of jargon and clarification of many of the subject’s main themes.

Carrithers, Michael (1992) Why humans have cultures: explaining anthropology and social diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This introduction asks why humans inhabit such a wide variety of cultures and societies, and examines what unity may be seen to underlie such diversity, what are its origins, and how it may be understood. Examples of social interaction from past and present are used to show that it is social developments rather than technological achievements that have been crucial in the passage of human history.

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