SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) Creative Arts (2021 entry)

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Overview and entry requirements

This MPhil/PhD Creative Arts programme provides advanced training and research experience at a doctoral level in the Creative Arts, broadly understood to encompass a range of expressive and performing arts (including dance and theatre), embodied traditions of knowledge (including oratory and artisanal techniques), and aesthetics. The programme recognises that certain established cultural forms fall between the conventional disciplinary boundaries of the Western academy (including dance-dramas, puppetry, fashion, perfumery, and digital artworks) and draws upon the collective expertise of members of the School of Arts to create a platform for critical engagement with these forms.

Members of the School of Arts cover a broad geographical area, across Asia and the Middle East, Africa, and diasporic cultures. We also have PhD students working on projects that fall outside of this geographical expanse, including research on Europe and the Americas. Staff often have research interests in issues that cross regional boundaries; our Department Staff page has a summary of their interests, research specialisms and activities.

Students in the School of Arts use a variety of research methods, including fieldwork, interview, archival research, recording and filming, performance, transcription and analysis, composition, and curatorial projects. A key feature of the degree in Creatve Arts is the scope for Practice Research, where relevant. This may include design portfolios, installations, and performance.

Most SOAS research students spend some time doing fieldwork in the regions of their research. Through SOAS’ various connections with individuals and institutions in the universities and governments of Asia and Africa, students may be able to benefit from personal contacts and introductions.

This research degree is offered by the School of Arts.

Programme Code: M7Z1 (Full-Time) & M7ZA (Part-Time)

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • Postgraduate students of the School of Arts come from a wide variety of backgrounds in the UK and from overseas. Applicants are evaluated individually on the basis of their background and academic achievements. Applicants should normally possess a Master’s degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline plus one reference. Applicants who are accomplished performers or artists, or who work in the cultural industries, may have alternative qualifications, and are encouraged to apply. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

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Fees 2021/22

UK fees:
Overseas fees:

Fees for 2021/22 entrants. The fees are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. Further details can be found in the Fees and Funding tab on this page or in the Registry Postgraduate Tuition Fees page




In Year one students are required to follow a course of research training: core research training is shared across PhD programmes in the School of Arts, with the addition of tailored pathway-specific training in the relevant section. Creative Arts Students will be advised by their Supervisors to attend the training the particular section most relevant to their training needs.

In addition, students may be required to take one or more postgraduate courses (eg, Theory and Method in Ethnomusicology or Theory and Method in Art History), depending on their prior qualifications and the requirements of their research project.

Students are also expected to attend departmental research seminars.

An annual training plan is to be agreed wit the Lead Supervisor to help ensure students have the requisite skills to undertake their planned research and produce a thesis of the required academic standard.

Research proposal/upgrade paper

In Term 3 of Year 1 (full-time) or Term 3 or Year 2 (part-time), student submit a Research Proposal/Upgrade Paper of about 12,000 words, typically including the following elements:

  • Research rationale and context of proposed research
  • Main research questions
  • Literature review
  • Theoretical and methodological framework & considerations
  • Proposed research methods
  • Ethical issues (where applicable)
  • Work Plan and Budget
  • Bibliography

Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the student and supervisory committee.

This research proposal/upgrade paper is assessed by the student's supervisroy committee in an oral exam (viva voce), lasting up to one hour. Prior to the viva coce, the student will have presented an earlier version of the research proposal/upgrade paper in a departmental research seminar, involving a 20 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion, also open to other staff and students.

Year 2, 3 and 4

On successful completion of the viva voce, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year (full-time) or third year (part-time).

If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the research proposal/upgrade paper, a student will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed. Students are not permitted to proceed to the next year or to fieldwork until the upgrade process has been completed.


The thesis must be in English, not be more than 100,000 words, excluding bilbliography and appendix, be reflective of the investigation carried out whilst a postgraduate research student and form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject as set out in SOAS Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations.

Submission of the thesis is normally expected by the end of the third year, but when justified up to an additonal three terms of enrolment may be agreed to enable the completion of writing-up of the thesis.

Students may not submit their thesis after four years of full-time registration have elapsed  (seven years for part-time). 

Examination is by a minmum of two independent examiners at least one of whom is external to SOAS. Examination consists of an assessment of the thesis and a viva voce covering the thesis and the research upon which is based.

Students successfully completing the programme are awarded a PhD in Creative Arts.

Students who do not meet the requisite standard to achieve a PhD may, if they meet the requirements set out in SOAS Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations, be awarded an MPhil in Creative Arts.

Important notice

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

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

New students will be supervised by a panel of two academics consisting of a lead supervisor and a second supervisor. Occasionally a third supervisor may be appointed. Lead supervisors will usually be located in the School of Arts while second and third supervisors can be located in any of the SOAS Departments or Centres. Beyond this, the department research tutor has overall responsibility for SOAS research students, being available to discuss general problems.

The first, second and (if relevant) third supervisors form the students’ supervisory committee.

SOAS PhD students who enrolled before 2018/19 and have a supervisory committee of three members, and who wish to transfer to the PhD in Creative Arts will retain a three person supervisory committee after the transfer.

MPhil upgrades

As previously advised in Doctoral School circulars, due to the current health crisis we did not  hold a School of Arts Upgrade symposium in 2020. MPhil students had to submit the Upgrade portfolio on PhD Manager by May 15 to ensure timely reporting on the outcome to the Doctoral School by June 15. Extensions to this date could be considered in consultation with supervisors and the School of Arts Director of Doctoral Studies, Ashley Thompson, keeping in mind that we seek to keep students on track for progression mid-September whenever possible. Students should inform the Doctoral School of any extensions organised in this way by sending an email to: 

SOAS Library

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

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

Fees for 2021/22 entrants per academic year

Research degrees

Full-time  Part-time 
UK Overseas UK Overseas
MPhil/PhD £4,486 £20,000 £2,243 £10,000
Extension of Writing-up Status - 3 Terms £990 £990 £990 £990
Visiting Research Students (charged pro rata for termly attendance) £4,486 £20,000 -  -

Please note that fees go up each year. 

See full details of postgraduate research tuition fees

Meiji Jingu Japanese Studies Research Scholarships

Application Deadline: 2021-04-20 00:00

For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section



Students in the School of Arts develop a ​​critical and theoretically informed approach to global arts and culture. In addition to an intercultural awareness and practical expertise, graduates gain a wide portfolio of transferable skills which are especially sought after in the creative and cultural industries.

Recent School of Arts graduates have been hired by:

  • Christie’s
  • Christine Park Gallery
  • Crisis
  • Design Museum
  • Hong Kong Museum Of Art
  • India Foundation For The Arts
  • Japanese Gallery
  • Museum of East Asian Art
  • Music in Detention
  • National Gallery
  • Pan Arts
  • People Projects Culture & Change
  • Roundhouse Trust
  • Somerset House Trust
  • Songlines Magazine
  • Sotheby's
  • South Asian Art UK
  • Stratford Circus Arts Centre
  • Taiwan Embassy
  • The Alliance for Global Education
  • The British Embassy
  • The National Museum Of Korea
  • The Royal Collection
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Find out about our Careers Service.

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Madiina Daher


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