SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

MA South Asian Area Studies (2021 entry)

Select year of entry: 2022 2021

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


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

Entry requirements

  • 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.

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 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.


Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in South Asian Area Studies 15PSAC997 60 Full Year
Compulsory Module
Module Code Credits Term
Remapping Area Studies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East 15PNMH053 15 Term 1
Anthropology (minor only)
Module Code Credits Term
Culture and Society of South Asia 15PANH064 15 Term 2
725 African and Asian Diasporas: Culture, Politics, Identities 15PANH085 15 Term 2
Art and Archaeology
Module Code Credits Term
Arts of the Tamil Temple 15PARH101 15 Term 2
The Indian Temple 15PARC034 30 credits - 1.0 unit
Buddhist Art in a Cosmopolitan Environment: Gandharan Art and its Heritage 15PARH099 15 Term 1
Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context 15PARH075 15 Term 2
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
Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - A 15PSAH034 15 Term 1
Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia - B 15PSAH035 15 Term 2
Culture and Conflict in Nepal 15PSAH017 15 Term 1
Development Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Contemporary India: development challenges and perspectives 15PAIC003 15 Term 1

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
Historical Perspectives on Gender in Asia, Africa and the Middle East 15PHIH029 15 Term 2
Colonial curricula: empire and education at SOAS and beyond 15PHIH054 15 Term 2
The Afghanistan Wars, 1979 to the Present 15PHIH056 15 Term 2
Interdisciplinary Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Postcolonial Theory 15PCSC003 30 Full Year
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
Persian 1 A (PG) 15PNMH016 15 Term 1
Persian 1 B (PG) 15PNMH017 15 Term 2
Persian 2 A (PG) 15PNMH026 15 Term 1
Persian 2 B (PG) 15PNMH027 15 Term 2
Persian 3 (PG) 15PNMC408 30 Full Year
Prakrit Language 1 (PG) 15PSAC309 30 Full Year
Punjabi Language 1 A (PG) 15PSAH030 15 Term 1
Punjabi Language 1 B (PG) 15PSAH031 15 Term 2
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
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
Middle Persian 15PSRC034 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Colonialism, Empire and International Law 15PLAH025 15 Term 2
Law, Religion, and the State in South Asia 15PLAC129 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Literatures of Resistance in South Asia (PG) 15PSAH038 15 Term 1
Classical Persian Poetry: Texts and Traditions (PG) 15PNMC401 15 Term 1
Sanskrit Texts on Yoga (PG) 15PSAC319 30 Full Year
Comparative Literature: Methodology and Critique 15PCSH004 15 Term 1
Comparative Literature: A New Era 15PCSH005 15 Term 2
Module Code Credits Term
Sacred Sound in South Asia 15PMUH021 15 Term 2
Indian vocal music: Styles and histories 15PMUH025 15 Term 2
Politics & International Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia 15PPOH052 15 Term 2
International Relations of South Asia 15PPOH058 15 Term 2
Politics of Development in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia 15PPOH064 15 Term 1
Politics of Imagining South Asia 15PPOH065 15 Term 1
Politics of South Asia: Beyond India 15PPOH068 15 Term 2
Race and Caste 15PPOH070 15 Term 2
Study of Religions & Philosophies
Module Code Credits Term
Religions and Development 15PSRH049 15 Term 2
The Origins and Development of Yoga in Ancient India 15PSRC173 30 Full Year
Buddhist Meditation in India and Tibet 15PSRC172 30 Full Year
Yoga and Meditation in the Jaina Tradition 15PSRH060 15 Term 2
The Religions of Ancient India 15PSRH054 15 Term 2
Modern Trends in Islam 15PNMC228 30 Full Year
Critical Concepts in Buddhist Studies 15PSRH050 15 Term 1
Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives 15PSRC052 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

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.

Contact hours

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.

Learning outcome

  • 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

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.



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.

Skills gained

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: 

  • academia
  • commerce
  • community
  • finance
  • government
  • NGOs
  • media
  • politics
  • 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
  • Librarian
  • Chaplain
  • 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

I have had the chance to read the most up to date, often controversial and revealing perspectives on South Asia, presented by leading academics who will often actually be members of the South Asia Department Faculty itself. My choice to study at SOAS was the best decision I ever made; being a student here is an exciting and unique experience.

Mikaela Parrack

Find out more