Overview and entry requirements
The MA South Asian Area Studies programme 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.
This 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, Religion and History.
The South Asian Area Studies MA 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.
See School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
Why study South Asia at SOAS
- SOAS is ranked 8th in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2021 for South Asian Studies
- we are specialists in the studies of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia
- gain in-depth understanding of one these key world regions, grounded in the study of one or more languages of the region
- access our comprehensive cross-regional expertise and gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of these regions in an increasingly globalised world
- solid methodological and interdisciplinary foundation
- students have an opportunity to develop a holistic and integrated approach to the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East through their languages and cultures
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Start of programme: September
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
- 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)
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 credits from a dissertation and 120 credits from taught modules. All students take the 15-credit compulsory module 'Remapping Area Studies', and up to 15 credits may be taken from the list of Postgraduate Open Options. The remaining credits should be chosen from the list below: 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 languages, only 30 credits can be at 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.
Anthropology (minor only)
Art and Archaeology
Some background in Economics is a prerequisite for these modules. Please contact the convenor for details.
Language [up to 30 credits as a minor only; additional language may exceptionally be taken, but only one at beginner's level]
Politics & International Studies
Study of Religions & Philosophies
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
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.
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
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.
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
- 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 based 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:
- 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
The 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, visit our Careers Service website.
A Student's Perspective
Hannah Fitzpatrick, Barnard College
At SOAS, my area of study is nothing unique, it’s quite normal, and I like being among people who know what I’m talking about and appreciate what I’m doing.