SOAS University of London

The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Alphawood Scholarships at SOAS 2020/21

1. Introduction

SOAS is delighted to announce that applications are now invited for new Alphawood Scholarships to support Postgraduate Diploma and MA study in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts for the 2021-22 academic year. Applications may be made on the Alphawood Scholarships online application form until 15 January 2021.

2. Background

The Alphawood Scholarships form part of the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (SAAAP) at SOAS University of London, which is generously supported by the Alphawood Foundation (Chicago).
The remit of SAAAP is to:

support and advance, through study and research, the understanding and preservation of Southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture from ancient to pre-modern times. The SAAAP remit includes study of the built environment, sculpture, painting, illustrated texts, textiles and other tangible or visual representations, along with the written word related to these, and archaeological, museum and cultural heritage studies.


Between 2014 and 2020, SAAAP provided over 90 Alphawood Scholarships which supported Southeast Asian scholars' postgraduate study at the Certificate, Diploma, MA and MPhil/PhD levels in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS.

Where there is an assessed need, Alphawood Scholarships also provide support for our students to advance their English-language proficiency through dedicated courses at the SOAS Department of International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies (IFCELS).

Through the Alphawood Scholarships scheme, it is expected that our scholars and alumni will be well-equipped to make a significant and positive impact on the understanding and preservation of ancient to pre-modern Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture in Southeast Asia.

Alphawood Scholars are selected with the expectation that, as alumni, they will be in a position to apply the learning and skills they gain while on award to the benefit of the galleries, museums, heritage organisations, universities, government departments and other institutions in the Southeast Asian region in which they may go on to work.
The geographical reach of the Alphawood Scholarships scheme, as in the wider SAAAP, includes: Brunei; Cambodia; East Timor; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Myanmar/Burma; Singapore; Thailand; and Vietnam.
The Alphawood Scholarships commencing with the 2021-22 academic year will cover:

  • Tuition fees - scholars’ SOAS tuition fees will be paid in full for the MA/Diploma programme and, if required, the cost of a bespoke English language preparatory course and tuition for the four-week Pre-sessional English-language course at SOAS’ International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies (IFCELS) department;
  • Maintenance – an allowance of £16,539 per year (pro rata) will be paid to the scholar to cover costs of living and studying in central London (or, if studying remotely, an adjusted allowance will be paid to reflect local living costs);
  • Travel – the cost of economy flights to and from the UK at the start and end of the MA/Diploma programme will be paid by the scholarship; and
  • Visa and other costs - the costs of any visa, requisite health checks and Immigration Health Surcharge costs required for visa purposes, will be reimbursed to Scholars on arrival in the UK.

3. Candidate Eligibility Criteria 

To be considered for an Alphawood Scholarship, you must have received an offer for your programme of study from the SOAS Department of Art and Archaeology by the time that the Scholarships are awarded in February 2021.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to apply to SOAS by 31 December 2020 for a place in the MA/Diploma programme in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology as a first priority.

Once you have completed and submitted your application for admission to the MA/Diploma programme, you should then develop your application for an Alphawood Scholarship, as set out below.

The following eligibility criteria apply to all prospective applicants to the Alphawood Scholarships scheme this year

  • You should normally be a resident in one of the following countires: Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, Singapore, Thailand or Vietnam.
  • Applications will be considered from candidates who are not normally a resident in these countires, provided you can demonstrate your intention and capacity to return or reloate to the region to pursue employment, teaching, futher study or otherwise make a direct and positive impact in the countires listed above regarding the objectives of the SAAAP Remit. Please include evidence of this in your personal statement.
  • If applying for an MA programme, you should outline your proposed dissertation topic at the point of application for admission and application for award, and arcitulate how this topic addresses the ancient to pre-modern Buddhist or Hindu art or architecture of Southeast Asia, in line with the objectives of the SAAAP Remit. Please include evidence of this in your personal statement.

4. Eligible Courses of Study 

For the 2021-22 academic year, the Alphawood Scholarships scheme will be available to support one of the following programmes:

  • MA History of Art and Archaeology
    Applicants are encouraged to consider the options available for the 2021-22 session on and related to ancient to pre-modern Southeast Asian art and archaeology (open ‘Structure’ on the above page).
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art - any combination of three Diploma modules, including Southeast Asian Art module
  • Awards to support study under other postgraduate programmes at SOAS are not available for the 2021-22 academic year.

5. English Language Requirements

Please note that candidates are asked to provide evidence of their English-language proficiency at the point of application to demonstrate that they hold the minimum level of proficiency for entry onto either the MA or the Diploma programme. This should include approved English Language test results (IELTS for UKVI) and evidence of prior undergraduate study, at an English-language university where possible.

The Alphawood Scholarship may be extended pro rata to provide two forms of English language support.

  • Bespoke English language training - in preparation for commencement of the chosen programme – this will be tailored to individuals’ needs and probably consist of weekly one-to-one distance learning sessions. The sessions will run from March 2021 to July 2021. Details will be provided upon award; and
  • Pre-sessional English-language tuition – up to 4 weeks tuition at SOAS’ International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies (IFCELS) Department prior to taking up the MA/Diploma programme (in September 2021).

Students who do not meet the minimum English-language threshold for entry onto the MA/Diploma programmes in September 2021 will not be eligible to take up an Alphawood Scholarship at that time.

To obtain entry onto the IFCELS four week pre-sessional course in August and September, candidates will be preferred who can submit in their application evidence of IELTS for UKVI scores of at least 6.5 overall. With at least 6.5 in Writing and at least 6.0 in Speaking, Reading and Listening. More guidance on IFCELS Assessments.

Applicants who need to make an appointment to take the IELTS for UKVI examination to support UK Tier-4 visa applications, please note that examinations must be booked at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Applicants are reminded that the examination should be valid for visa application purposes, and should be issued with a UKVI reference number. Results from other types of IELTS examinations may not be valid for visa application purposes.

Successful candidates will be reimbursed for the cost of one IELTS for UKVI test once arrived in the UK and after opening a UK bank account. Alphawood Scholarship applicants will need to submit official IELTS for UKVI results (dated from within the last two years) as a part of the application for admission.

6. Candidate Assessment

Applications for award are assessed by a Selection Panel comprised of members of SOAS staff with pertinent academic and professional experience and convened as a function of the SAAAP Scholarships Sub-board.
The Panel will assess candidates on the information provided in both the Application for admission to the MA/Diploma programme (academic references, transcripts, personal statements and other relevant information) and that contained in the Alphawood Scholarships application.

The Panel will assess applicants on the basis of the following criteria:

  • previous degree and experience in Southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture from ancient to pre-modern times, including study of the built environment, sculpture, painting, illustrated texts, textiles and other tangible or visual representations, along with the written word related to these, and archaeological, museum and cultural heritage studies;
  • interest in (and engagement with) the objectives of the programme of study
  • potential for personal growth and development with the scholarship award;
  • intentions following completion of their studies at SOAS;
  • interest in (and engagement with) the objectives of the SAAAP mission;
  • perceived potential for direct and positive impact in the field and in the region;
  • the potential for of advancing the field of study within the remit;
  • recommendations of two references, as provided in the Application for Admission to the SOAS Department of Art and Archaeology; and
  • in consideration of expressed financial need for a scholarship to support MA/Diploma study at SOAS.

7. Scholarship Application Process

There are 2 steps to the application process.

STEP 1 – Application for Admission in the MA/Diploma programme:

All candidates considering an application for an Alphawood Scholarship are first asked to complete their application for admission to the relevant MA/Diploma programme through the following:

Please read the relevant guidance on the Department of Art and Archaeology site before you start your application. 

All Alphawood Scholarship applicants will be required to have an offer of admission in place by the time the Alphawood Scholarships Selection Panel begin reviewing applications (from mid-January to early February 2021).

As the Department of History of Art and Archaeology may take up to four weeks to assess applications for admission and to offer a place in the relevant programme, we strongly recommended that applicants should complete and submit applications for admission to the Department of Art and Archaeology by 31 December 2020 at the very latest.

STEP 2 – Application for an Alphawood Scholarship:

After submitting an application for admission to the Department of Art and Archaeology, applicants should then apply for an Alphawood Scholarship through the Alphawood Scholarships online application form.

Please note that applicants should complete and submit this Application Form in one sitting. It is not possible to save drafts of this form, nor to return to a partially-complete form at a later date for revision.
As such, all applicants are recommended to make note of the questions and work on responses in a separate document until fully satisfied with the responses. Applicants may then return to the Online Application Form to input and submit these final responses.

Applicants should use the Personal Statement section in their Application for Scholarship to demonstrate their interest in the objectives specified in the SAAAP Remit. They should also demonstrate their intention to pursue employment, teaching, further study, research or to otherwise make a positive impact in areas of the SAAAP Remit after studying at SOAS.

The deadline for applications for an Alphawood Scholarship for MA/Diploma study this year is Friday 15 January 2021.

8. Deadlines and Notifications

  • 31 December 2021 – Candidates should submit their complete application for admission to the SOAS Department of Art and Archaeology using the application forms indicated above;
  • 15 January 2021 – Candidates must submit their complete application for an Alphawood Scholarship through the Alphawood Scholarships online application form by 23:59 (UTC).
  • 18 February 2021 – The Alphawood Scholarships Selection Panel and SAAAP Programme Board agree the successful applicants for award to support MA/Diploma study commencing in the 2021-22 academic year. The SAAAP Office will contact all applicants shortly thereafter to inform them of the outcome of their application
  • Mid-March to Mid-July 2021 – bespoke English language training;
  • Late August 2021 – 4-week IFCELS Pre-sessional Course B begins
  • 27 September 2021 - Academic Term 1 (2021-22) at SOAS begins

For more information about the Alphawood Scholarships or the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme at SOAS, please contact alphawoodscholarships@soas.ac.uk.