Department of Economics

MPhil/PhD in Economics

Key information

3 years full time or 6 years part-time
Attendance mode
Full-time or part-time

Home student fees (full-time): £4,860 per year
Home student fees (part-time): £2,430 per year
Overseas student fees (full-time): £22,490 per year
Overseas student fees (part-time): £11,245 per year

Please note that fees go up each year. 
See research fees for further details.

Entry requirements

Admission and thesis requirements. A good Masters degree in Economics plus one reference is usually required. Students are normally registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Once approval of the Research Student's Supervisory Committee has been received, the student's registration is upgraded to PhD status (and backdated to the commencement of the MPhil registration), usually at the end of the first year of study, for which the minimum registration period is double that of full-time study. Candidates are expected to present a thesis of not more than 55,000 words for the MPhil, while for the PhD the maximum length is 100,000 words. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

Course overview

Students whose qualifications indicate that they are able to pursue independent research may be accepted to read for a research degree (MPhil/PhD) in Economics.

Normally a high level Masters degree in Economics or equivalent is a prerequisite. In general, such an MSc as precondition of entry is sufficient to satisfy admission conditions without need for further coursework requirements, especially as far as formal examinations are concerned.

Why study MPhil/PhD in Economics at SOAS?

  • We are ranked 27th in UK for economics (QS World University Rankings 2023)
  • We are top 20 in the UK for student satisfaction with teaching (Complete University Guide 2023)
  • We are top 40 in the UK for economics (Complete University Guide 2023)
  • The Department offers unique research training opportunities both through its dedicated research student seminar series and the wide-ranging set of courses taught on its MSc programmes. These range from economic theory to political economy of development and are oriented around a range of theoretical, empirical and policy issues. Its special subject options provide the highest level of expertise on a large number of topics.
  • First year research students benefit from a programme of research student training in political economy, different schools of thought, methods and methodologies, and receive formal training sessions on how to do fieldwork.
  • Training needs of each research students are individually assessed and provided through a combination of generally available courses and individual tuition.
  • Departmental staff have rich experience in supervising research degree students, matched by their success in bringing students' theses to timely completion. Whilst the Department has a strong commitment to students' early completion of their theses, it also considers it has a responsibility to see that all of its research students obtain a broader training than in their narrowly-defined topic and that they gain skills in theoretical, empirical and policy analysis, in the writing and communication of research results, and in evaluating the work of others.
  • Research students are expected to form part of the academic community of the Department, participating as appropriate in collaborative research with members of staff, with some opportunities for teaching
  • SOAS offers unique opportunities for interdisciplinary and regional research, and the scope to learn or improve a language where appropriate.
  • The Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC) offers targeted advice to individual students undertaking empirical work.

First year

The first year of training involves attendance at courses and/or seminars but not usually formal written examinations. Students are registered for an MPhil in their first (full-time equivalent) year but usually convert to a PhD after their upgrade viva rather than continuing to the MPhil qualification.

Research student tutors

An essential feature of the MPhil and PhD process is the close working relationship between research students and supervisors. Supervisors and students meet regularly and consult closely. All research students have a Supervisory Committee to cover theoretical, empirical and regionally-specific supervision, as appropriate.

There are Research Student Tutors with overall responsibility for research students, who are available for discussion of general problems. And the Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC) offers detailed and individual advice to students about fieldwork and empirical analysis as appropriate. As necessary, upon request, DESC will consider individual student needs and allocate one or more members of staff (not necessarily supervisor) to advise.


Students are required to participate in a workshop/seminar in which research topics and results are presented and discussed by staff and students. In addition, there is a regular Departmental Seminar, to which members of the Department and visiting speakers present papers. There is a strong interdisciplinary basis for research and teaching, and SOAS can claim to be the leading institution in the world researching and teaching in political economy, development economics and area or specific-country studies.

London, moreover, provides an unrivalled opportunity for students to hear papers being read by leading authorities in African and Asian studies, as well as in economics and development more generally. Research students may choose to participate in a wealth of seminars held in both the School and other Colleges and Institutes of the University.


Many SOAS research students spend some time doing fieldwork in the regions of their research. The Faculty of Law and Social Sciences and the School as a whole, through their various connections with individuals and institutions in the universities and governments of Asia and Africa, can usually facilitate this work with personal contacts and introductions.

Scholarships, funding and ESRC recognition

There are a number of scholarships available to research (and MSc) students at SOAS please see Scholarships and Bursaries for further information. But it is a condition of acceptance that students embarking upon a research degree have the capacity to fund the full duration of their studies. There may be some paid opportunities for teaching, normally not in the first year, but these cannot be relied upon and will not begin to cover fees and maintenance fully.


The research degree embodies a core of training in research methods combined with a clear structure of progression thereafter. The training components are explained in the tab Teaching and Learning. The duration and structure of the research degree is as follows

Full-time research degree: Thre years plus one writing up

Year 1- Research training

Research students will take the 'Research Student Seminar 1' course in the Economics Department.

Year 1: Upgrade

Students will normally be expected to pass an upgrade from MPhil to PhD status within 9 months of commencing the degree.

Year 2-3 - Research

Core research undertaken: primary and secondary data collection as appropriate, draft thesis chapters finalised.

Year 4 - Write up

If necessary a fourth year can be taken to write the final thesis. Examination of the thesis will take place after submission within the 4th year

Part-time research degree: Six years, plus one year writing up

The research degree can be undertaken over 6 years:

  • Research Student Seminar course must be taken over the first two years.
  • Upgrade will take place within 21 months after initial registration.
  • Examination will take place after submission within the writing-up year (year 7) at the latest

Important notice

The information on the website reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. The modules are indicative options of the content students can expect and are/have been previously taught as part of these programmes. However, this information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change.

Teaching and learning

Research training in economics

All research students are expected to attend a dedicated research student seminar. In addition, a separate programme of research training is offered for first-year students covering various topics including political economy,  different schools of thought, method and methodologies, as well as guidance on how to do fieldwork.


  • to encourage and enable students to complete an original thesis in the expected time.
  • to provide training and experience in fieldwork and across a variety of schools of economics and in a variety of statistical techniques.
  • to allow flexibility in training to suit students with different backgrounds and subsequent research needs.
  • to make available and to monitor first class research supervision with the involvement of at least two members of staff through individual Research Student's Supervisory Committees.
  • to encourage knowledge of other relevant disciplines and the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach where appropriate.
  • to equip students with the ability to assess one another's work critically, whether in response to written or spoken presentation.
  • to obtain language skills as appropriate.
  • to ensure students experience a congenial and productive environment of the conduct of research through availability of a wide range of facilities and full participation in the intellectual life of the Department and School. Library facilities are outstanding and computing facilities are attuned to student needs.
  • to emphasise the relevance of research to theoretical, empirical and policy issues.
  • to draw upon the Department's particular strengths, especially its expertise in different approaches to economic problems and its experience in problems of development, specific regions, and comparative analysis.
  • to involve students in the specialised Centres of the School where appropriate.
  • to advise on publication and careers progression.

A broader student-tailored programme of training needs can also be established in the first weeks of study, with a range of courses available from the Department’s MSc programmes. To this end, all students should undertake a Training Needs Analysis with their supervisor in the first weeks of Term 1 .


1. The role of the second and third members of the Supervisory Committee (SC) will be focused on the following two core tasks:

  • Participate in the upgrade process of the student, including the final decision relating to his/her transfer from MPhil to PhD.
  • Participate in other decisions relating to his/her eligibility for enrolment on Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) Status or, where necessary, termination of registration.

2. In addition to these core roles, the second and third members of the SC may be expected to:

  • Enhance or augment the supervision of the student by contributing additional guidance and expertise, if required/sought by the student and/or the supervisor throughout the time of active research.
  • To act on behalf of the supervisor during unforeseen periods of absence. This role will have to be agreed by consent of all parties (student, supervisor and the two members of SC) and one of the two members will be designated as cover in absence for the period in question.

3. Only rarely is joint supervision allowed, for which a strong case would need to be made. Whilst the primary responsibility for guiding student's research and to review written work and progress rests with the supervisor, once upgrade is successfully completed, other members of the supervisory committee must receive student’s thesis drafts at appropriate times, with support also available to students from the Departmental Empirical Support Committee (DESC).

Computing facilities

Full computing facilities are available to postgraduate students. Computers dedicated for the use of research students in the Economics Department are also available. Software available includes word-processing and specialised statistical, econometrics and spreadsheet packages. The School’s computing staff are on hand to assist with general computing problems.

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

Fees for 2023/24 entrants per academic year

  Home students Overseas students
Full-time £4,860 £21,630
Part-time £2,430 £10,815

lease note that fees go up each year.

See research fees for further details.


A postgraduate degree in Economics and Environment from SOAS equips students with a range of important skills to continue in the field of research as well as a portfolio of widely transferable employability skills valued by a wide range of employers. These include numeracy, analytical thinking and general skills such as organisation and effective communication skills. Graduates of this programme will develop a specialised understanding of the environmental and development concerns.

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

  • African Development Bank
  • Bain & Co
  • Barclays
  • Bank of America
  • Cabinet of the Deputy Prime Minister
  • Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
  • Deloitte
  • Department For Communities And Local Government
  • Department for International Development
  • Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Ernst & Young
  • Emerging Markets Direct
  • European Commission
  • Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
  • Ghana Education Service
  • Government of Pakistan
  • HM Treasury
  • Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IESE)
  • International Climate Change Economics
  • KPMG
  • Ministry of East African Community Affairs
  • National Bank of Bahrain
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Oxfam
  • RBS
  • Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
  • The National Economics University
  • UK Civil Service
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • United Nations Development Programme
  • World Bank

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