SOAS is one of the few universities in the world to offer a Masters degree in the politics of Africa. There are many ‘African Studies’ degrees, but politics typically makes up only a part of their programmes. Our MSc Politics of Africa offers a wide range of modules in which students learn about historical and contemporary periods of African politics, as well as debates informed by the major sub-disciplines of politics: international relations, comparative politics and political theory. We also use our knowledge of Africa to talk back to the discipline, and to show that African politics is not in any sense marginal but has a strong influence on how we see and engage with the world.
Start of programme: September intake only
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
Who is this programme for?:
Anyone interested in the politics of Africa, whether that concerns particular countries or from a wider regional perspective. You should have an undergraduate degree with good marks in social science or humanities subjects (politics, history, philosophy, development, economics, etc) and some prior knowledge of the African continent. But we don’t require all of that in any candidate, and also value applicants with substantive practical experience in the field. What we are looking for, ultimately, is a genuine interest in political dynamics in Africa, as well as enthusiasm to learn and to engage the remarkable community of people this degree brings together.
- We will consider all applications with 2:ii (or international equivalent) or higher. In addition to degree classification we take into account other elements of the application including supporting statement and references.
- One calendar year (full-time);
Two or three years (part-time, daytime only) Students usually complete their core modules in Year 1, and their option modules and dissertation in subsequent years.
What this Degree Offers: Q&A
How is this degree structured?
At the centre of the programme is the core module ‘The Politics in Africa’ which introduces students to the broad history of the region and the core theoretic concerns of the discipline. Students then focus on themes, sub-regions and individual countries that match their particular interests and learn methods that enable them to develop their research skills, and write a dissertation. You also have the opportunity to choose from a range of modules offered in other Departments, combining insights and approaches from different disciplines and fields of knowledge. If you want, you can also study one of six African languages (Amharic, Hausa, Somali, Swahili, Yoruba and Zulu).
All students write a dissertation of 10,000 words, which is submitted in September. Our students work with staff to identify their preferred topic and then write under close supervision, provided in one-to-one meetings with the faculty member most appropriate to the topic. The dissertation provides a chance to delve into a particular issue you are interested in and enables you to deepen and demonstrate your analytical skills. They also help to identify plausible topics for those who want to continue to do a PhD and write a proposal that secures admission to the world’s top universities.
Who will teach me?
The Politics Department at SOAS boasts three Professors specializing in African politics, as well as a range of other faculty with expertise in Africa. Our academics, as well as post-doctoral and doctoral researchers they supervise, are engaged in a wide range of exciting research, which feeds directly into what we teach our students.
What skills will students learn?
The course encourages students to develop a critical approach to reading and clarity in the way they argue and write about academic issues. It develops their conceptual thinking and the ability to evaluate, criticise and interpret different kinds of arguments and data and, from that, to develop plausible and persuasive arguments. Finally it helps people to present and communicate their ideas in presentations, short essays and longer analytical papers.
What are students doing after they graduate?
By the end of the degree students will be fully equipped to carry on to doctoral study about African Politics, or to work in journalism, diplomacy, think-tanks, commerce, development or human rights NGOs, or many other fields that require analytic skills, specialist knowledge and the ability to communicate fluently about African Politics.
Access to a wealth of resources!
SOAS is the home of three of the most important institutions focused on African Studies in Europe. The Centre for African Studies brings together researchers from SOAS across disciplines and runs an array of events at the school, frequently hosting African Presidents, opposition figures and important thinkers. The Royal African Society is a membership organisation that runs, amongst other things, African Affairs (the highest ranking ‘Area Studies’ journal in the world); the influential ‘African Arguments’ blog; and also hosts a huge range of speaker events, film and fiction writing festivals. The International African Institute is a scholarly publishing institute that publishes a number of important book series and the influential journals Africa and African Cultural Studies.
The SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, housing over 1.3 million volumes, together with a major collection of archives, manuscripts, rare books and special collections. London is also home to, amongst other things, a large African diaspora, Chatham House Africa Programme, the London School of Economics and Political Science, The Africa Centre, and The Africa Research Institute. Most nights of the week there is a seminar, conference, musical or poetry performance, film or food festival themed on Africa that you could attend, or organise.
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 180 credits comprised of 120 taught credits (including core and option modules) and a 60 credit dissertation:
- The Politics of Africa (30 credits) & Methodology in the Social Sciences (15 credits).
- A minimum of 30 credits from List B.
- A maximum of 45 credits from List C.
- Dissertation on some aspect of African Politics (compulsory).
Please note that not all option modules may run every year.
This would focus on some aspect of African Politics.
Modules must be completed successfully for the achievement of an exit award.
Choose a minimum of 30 credits from List B, and a maximum of 45 credits from List C.
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 & Learning
Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.
The MSc programme consists of three taught modules (corresponding to three examination papers) and a dissertation.
Most modules involve a 50-minute lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.
At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work taking place in two-hour sessions. Students make full-scale presentations for each unit that they take, and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.
A quarter of the work for the degree is given over to the writing of an adequately researched 10,000-word dissertation. Students are encouraged to take up topics which relate the study of a particular region to a body of theory.
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.