Overview and entry requirements
Philosophy has been a significant activity in every society for several thousand years. It is a basic aspect of all human cultures to ask “big questions” about the fundamental nature of reality, about what it is to be human, what constitutes a good life, the nature of beauty, justice, knowledge and truth, and how to confront and resolve ethical dilemmas.
The BA World Philosophies is one of the only programmes in the world to provide the opportunity to ask these questions and examine answers from a global and decolonising perspective. The degree offers rigorous training in the formal epistemological, ethical, metaphysical systems and traditions of argumentation, and political and social thought from a wider range of societies than those of the traditional philosophy undergraduate.
Thus in addition to the ability to think critically and logically, acquired through the study of philosophy in general, the study of philosophical traditions from Asia, Africa, the Middle East in dialogue with European and Anglophone traditions enables students to take a broad and comprehensive view of the world and to think critically and deeply about justice, ethics, and real-world problems.
- To train students in foundational philosophical concepts, practices, and themes (logic, hermeneutics, epistemology, ontology, ethics, aesthetics, etc.).
- To develop a critical awareness of the dynamic range of philosophical traditions and the intellectual value of expanding the horizons of western philosophy through exposure to philosophical traditions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
- To encourage a dialogical approach to the study of philosophy by bringing together the study of western philosophical traditions with non-western philosophies in their vernacular, historical, and contemporary contexts.
- To develop a deep understanding of a range of culturally specific systems of thought and the ability to converse in more than one intellectual language or system of thought.
Why study BA World Philosophies at SOAS
- we are World Top 50 for Arts & Humanities (QS World University Rankings 2022) - with a rate of 91.7% overall student satisfaction (NSS 2021)
- we have been ranked 3rd for research outputs and 7th place overall in the Theology and Religious Studies research rankings in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021
- SOAS is ranked in the top 5 universities in the UK for producing a CEO or Managing Director according to new research
- SOAS academics possess a range of unparalleled expertise in the philosophical traditions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, many of the School’s lecturers are trained in and conversant with European philosophical traditions
- the range of languages offered in the School ensure that you will encounter philosophical traditions in their vernacular contexts ng Director, acco
In addition to the ability to think critically and logically, acquired through the study of philosophy in general, the study of philosophies from Asia, Africa and the Middle East will enable you to take a broad, balanced, and comprehensive view, to listen attentively to and understand others’ viewpoints with empathy and deep cultural insight.With these skills in hand, you will develop the capacity to become effective mediators between and within diverse societies, in complex and demanding environments and situations. SOAS is uniquely placed to offer a philosophy programme that can equip students with the skills and training to meet this challenge.
Who should apply
The BA World Philosophies degree will suit high-performing students with a global outlook, an interest in diverse philosophical traditions and cultural parameters of non-Western societies, coupled with an aptitude in intellectual history and critical thought. Individuals with inter-cultural competency — the ability to exchange values and concepts, to value and communicate different modes of understanding in the marketplace of ideas — are in huge demand in the job market.
Programme Code: UGSF0061
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Start of programme: September
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
- 3 years
Fees for 2022/23 entrants per academic year
- UK fees:
- Overseas fees:
Please note that fees go up each year. Further details see 'Fees and funding' (tab on this page) or the Registry's undergraduate tuition fees page.
The structure of the BA World Philosophies, taken as a single-subject honours degree, ensures that students gain a rigorous grounding in core philosophical themes, concepts, problems and approaches drawn from European, Anglophone, and non-European philosophical traditions with an accompanying flexibility built in to enable regional or thematic specialism or language capability.
Modules to the equivalent of 120 credits must be taken in each year. Modules to the equivalent of 60 credits are compulsory per year, with students free to select a further 60 credits from a list of options in various traditions or themes in World Philosophies, or to choose a language specialism.
The first year of the programme provides an essential foundation in World Philosophies, and introduces core topics in Philosophy, with additional options available that enable focus on discrete traditions, a language, or thematic components.
The second year builds on the foundations established in the first year, enabling students to grapple with questions of interpretation, hermeneutics, phenomenology, and dialogue between and within philosophical traditions.
Core components of philosophical methods and concepts are also taught and students are encouraged to develop a regional or thematic specialism, choosing from a wide range of options that address philosophical themes or offer training in specific philosophical traditions. Language training is also encouraged.
The third and final year is characterised by a focus on epistemology and critique, independent research, and the consolidation of a chosen regional or thematic specialism. All students undertake a supervised Independent Study Project which is intended to consolidate and extend a student’s philosophical tradition-based understanding and knowledge applied to prominent themes or debates in the field of World Philosophies.
Year 1, term 1
You will take TWO Compulsory Modules of 15 credits and TWO guided options of 15 credits:
Year 1, term 2
You will take 4 modules of 15 credits
Year 2 - you will take TWO compulsory modules.
You will select 15 credits from the Traditions of Philosophy List 1 plus 30-60 credits from the Traditions of Philosophy List 1 OR 30 credits of the guided options may be exchanged for a language or non language open option
Traditions of Philosophy List 1
You will take one compulsory module
You will select TWO modules of 30 credits from the Traditions of Philosophy List 2 AND the Independent Study Project in World Philosophies OR a further 30 credits from the Traditions of Philosophy List 2
30 credits of the guided options may be exchanged for a language or non-language open option
Language open option
Non-language open option
Traditions of Philosophy List 2
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
The course is examined through written and oral examinations and coursework. In addition, the Independent Study Project (ISP) in year 3 facilitates supervised student research in a prominent topic or debate in the field of World Philosophies.
Programme learning outcomes
- Familiarity with core concepts, themes, and arguments in the discipline of Philosophy;
- Knowledge of the history of Philosophy as a discipline;
- Fluency in a range of philosophical traditions and systems of thought from Asia, Africa and the Middle East;
- Training in theories and practices of criticism and interpretation in relation to western philosophical systems, both analytic and continental.
- Training in theories and practices of criticism and interpretation in relation to core topics in world philosophies, historical and contemporary.
- Knowledge of a variety of intellectual frameworks and key concepts that enable close engagement with the core problematic of intellectual insularity and the value of dialogue across philosophical traditions.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
- Precision in assessment of evidence and argumentation.
- Capacity to discuss philosophical concepts and problems in an articulate, informed, and intellectual manner.
- Critical acumen in the assessment of philosophical arguments and interpretations;
- The ability to assess evidence and arguments independently;
- Effective presentation of complex philosophical arguments;
- Development and application of self-reflexive approaches to dominant issues in the field of world philosophies.
Subject-based practical skills
- Application of logic and critical thinking to both abstract and real-world problems;
- Ability to assess complex arguments in cultural context;
- Ability to develop and articulate clear and strong arguments across a range of contentious issues and debates.
- Academic and professional writing to the highest standards;
- IT-based information retrieval, processing and data organization;
- Research project design
- Presentational skills
- Independent study skills
- Reflexive learning
- Problem solving, argumentation, and research skills
- Oral and written communication
- Critical and independent thought
- Synthesising of difficult and wide ranging empirical material
- Regional, tradition-based, and/or linguistic specialism
- Working to deadlines and to high standards of presentation and argumentation
- Ability to make assessments involving complex factors
Most courses involve a 50-100-minute lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.
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.
Fees for 2022/23 entrants per academic year
BA, BSc, LLB
|BA/BSc Language year abroad
Please note that fees go up each year.
For full details of undergraduate tuition fees, see our Registry's undergraduate tuition fees page.
For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section
In addition to an understanding of global faiths, histories and cultures, graduates from the Department of Religions and Philosophies develop the skills to analyse and communicate ideas in a clear, rational and comprehensive manner. These key proficiencies are valuable in many careers and are transferable to a wide range of sectors and roles.
Recent Department of Religions and Philosophies graduates have been hired by:
- Asia Society
- British Council
- Cabinet Office
- Chatham House
- Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
- HELP USA
- King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Princeton University
- Royal Government of Cambodia
- The Happiness Factory
- The Inter Faith Network for the UK
- The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
- United Nations Development Programme
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A Student's Perspective
From Indian Buddhism to Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, the diversity of the courses perfectly fitted my interests in Buddhism.