SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

MA South Asian Area Studies (2019 entry)

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


The MA in South Asian Studies provides exceptional opportunities for advanced study of one of the world’s most diverse and important regions.

Students can choose to concentrate on pre-modern or modern South Asia and can acquire a basic knowledge of one of the area’s languages, or build upon pre-existing knowledge by taking some languages at an intermediate or advanced level.

The degree provides a wide-ranging interdisciplinary analysis of the South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, with more limited coverage of Bangladesh and Bhutan. Disciplines available include Politics, Economics,Anthropology, Law, Literature, Cinema, Culture and History.

The programme attracts students from a variety of backgrounds. While some wish to broaden their previous studies or experience of South Asia, others approach the programme without having a South Asian element to their first degree, but with a desire to focus their previous training on the region.

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Featured events

One calendar year (full-time); Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)



Learn a language as part of this programme

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 take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. A maximum of 60 taught credits can be taken from one discipline and a minimum of three disciplines must be covered. For students opting to take two language acquisition modules, only one of these can be from an introductory level.

Some disciplines, such as Politics, Economics or Anthropology, require an appropriate qualification (such as part of a first degree) if any of their modules are to be taken as the major subject.

One module – whether 15 or 30 credits – must be designated as a “major” – this will designate the discipline and subject in which the dissertation will be written. The remaining taught component credit-bearing modules are designated as “minors”. All should be chosen from the list below. Modules listed as “minor only” may not be taken as a major.

*All modules are subject to availability


Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in South Asian Area Studies 15PSAC997 60 Full Year
Anthropology (minor only)
Module Code Credits Term
Culture and Society of South Asia 15PANH064 15 Term 2
Art and Archaeology
Module Code Credits Term
The Indian Temple 15PARC034 30 credits - 1.0 unit
Arts of the Tamil Temple 15PARH067 15 credits - 0.5 unit
Module Code Credits Term
Indian Cinema: Its History and Social Context 15PSAH001 15 Term 1
Indian Cinema: Key Issues 15PSAH002 15 Term 2
Module Code Credits Term
Culture and Conflict in Nepal 15PSAH017 15 Term 1
The Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia 15PSAC314 30 Credits

Some background in Economics is a prerequisite for these modules. Please contact the convenor for details.

Module Code Credits Term
Political Economy of Development and Change in South Asia 15PECC026 15 Term 1
Topics in the Political Economy of Contemporary South Asia 15PECC027 15 Term 2
Module Code Credits Term
Community, Religion, and Conflict in South Asian History 15PHIH041 15 Term 2
Language [up to 30 credits as a minor only; additional language may exceptionally be taken, but only one at beginner's level]
Module Code Credits Term
Bengali Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH028 15 Term 1
Bengali Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH029 15 Term 2
Bengali Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC304 30 Full Year
Hindi Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH022 15 Term 1
Hindi Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH023 15 Term 2
Hindi Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC296 30 Full Year
Hindi Language 3 (PG) 15PSAC297 30 Full Year
Hindi Language 4 (PG) 15PSAC308 30 Full Year
Readings in Contemporary Hindi (PG) 15PSAC305 30 Full Year
Nepali Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH024 15 Term 2
Nepali Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH025 15 Term 2
Nepali Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC299 30 Full Year
Prakrit Language 1 (PG) 15PSAC309 30 Full Year
Sanskrit Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH020 15 Term 1
Sanskrit Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH021 15 Term 2
Sanskrit Language 2 (Postgraduate) 15PSAC306 30 Credits
Punjabi Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH030 15 Term 1
Punjabi Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH031 15 Term 2
Urdu Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH026 15 Term 1
Urdu Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH027 15 Term 2
Urdu Language 2 (PG) 15PSAC301 30 Full Year
Urdu Literacy A (PG) 15PSAH032 15 Term 1
Urdu Literacy B (PG) 15PSAH033 15 Term 2
Persian 1 A (PG) 15PNMH016 15 Term 1
Persian 1 B (PG) 15PNMH017 15 Term 2
Intensive Persian Language 15PNMC415 60 Full Year
Persian 3 (PG) 15PNMC408 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Literatures of Resistance in South Asia 15PSAC284 15
Postcolonial Theory 15PCSC003 30 Full Year
Sanskrit Literature 15PSAC003 30 Full Year
Directed Readings in the Literature of a Modern South Asian Language 15PSAC016 30 Full Year
Sanskrit Texts from the Hindu Tradition 15PSAC014 30 Full Year
Literature & Colonialism in North India (Masters) 15PSAH005 15 Term 1
Narratives Of Mobility In Contemporary Hindi Literature (Masters) 15PSAH006 15 Credits
Module Code Credits Term
Law, Religion, and the State in South Asia 15PLAC129 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Indian vocal music: Styles and histories 15PMUH025 15 Term 2
Sacred Sound in South Asia 15PMUH021 15 Term 2
Politics & International Studies
Study of Religions & Philosophies
Module Code Credits Term
Religions and Development 15PSRH049 15 Term 2
Buddhist Meditation in India and Tibet 15PSRC172 30 Full Year
The Origins and Development of Yoga in Ancient India 15PSRC173 30 Full Year


Programme Specification

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

Contact Hours

One-year Masters programmes consist of 180 credits. 120 credits are taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks); the dissertation makes up the remaining 60 units. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework and revising for examinations. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary. 

More information is on the page for each module.


  • How to assess data and evidence critically from printed and digital sources, solve problems of conflicting sources and interpretations, locate materials, use research sources (particularly research library catalogues) and other relevant traditional sources.
  • Subject specific skills, for instance familiarity with a South Asian language and the ability to read texts in that language, or advanced study of a South Asian literature in its original language.
  • Aspects of South Asian history, economics, political, management and legal systems, art and archaeology, literature, visual and popular culture, anthropology and music.

Intellectual (thinking) skills

  • Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence.
  • Students should question interpretations, however authoritative, and reassess evidence for themselves
  • Apply language learning skills to new linguistic challenges, or to new oral or written texts.

Subject-based practical skills

  • Communicate effectively in writing.
  • Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources.
  • Present seminar papers.
  • Participate constructively in the discussion of ideas introduced during seminars.
  • Work to strict deadlines.
  • Use and apply foreign language skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Transferrable skills

The programme will encourage students to:

  • Write good essays and dissertations
  • Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing
  • Understand unconventional ideas
  • Study a variety of written and digital materials, in libraries and research institutes of a kind they will not have used as undergraduates
  • Present (non – assessed) material orally
  • Communicate in a foreign language


A postgraduate degree in South Asian studies from SOAS provides its students with competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature, history, cinema, politics, economics or law.

Postgraduate students are equipped with linguistic and cultural expertise enabling them to continue in the field of research, along with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in business, public or charity sectors. These include written and oral communication skills; attention to detail; analytical and problem solving skills; and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources. 

An MA in South Asian Area Studies can open many doors. Those remaining in London will be able to take advantage of the numerous international bodies here, and those with specialist areas of knowledge (finance, law, art) will find relevant opportunities. Many students may choose to pursue a career in South Asia to put their skills into practice. Research degrees are also possibilities for graduates with high grades.

Among a variety of professions, career paths may include: Academia; Commerce; Community; Finance; Government; NGOs; Media; Politics; and UN Agencies.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

Access to Justice Asia
BBC World Service
Cambridge Archaeological Unit
EMMA Media
Environmental Defense Fund
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Foremarke Exhibitions Ltd
Harvard University
Meyado Private Wealth Management
Mohurgong & Gulma Tea Estates
Momoyama Gakuin University
Neon Tree Media
SOAS, University of London
University of Edinburgh

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:

Interpreter and Translator
Consulting Associate
Senior Major Gifts Officer
Trade Commissioner
Digital designer
Human Resources Director
Professor of Comparative Religion & Indian Studies
Senior Investment Advisor
Script Writer and Coordinator
Humanitarian and CSR photographer
Professor of Musicology
Head of Humanities
Research Fellow
Lecturer in South Asian History

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

Let me put it like this: studying South Asia at SOAS is a greatly enriching experience.

Michele Serafini (Italy)

Find out more