Department of Religions and Philosophies, School of History, Religions and Philosophies & Centre for Global and Comparative Philosophies

Research Degrees: Religions and Philosophies

Key information

4 years (full-time)
Attendance mode
Full-time or part-time
Russell Square, College Buildings

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

We normally require a 2.1 bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) plus a Masters degree in appropriate subject area plus one reference. In exceptional cases we may accept applicants who do not meet these criteria if they show evidence of a strong Masters degree and/or appropriate level of relevant work experience. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

Course overview

Join our Research Degrees: Religions and Philosophies at SOAS — as a PhD student at SOAS you will be welcomed by our research community of doctoral researchers from across the globe and play a vital role in developing our vibrant and intellectual culture.

The SOAS Religions and Philosophies Department offers a vibrant, stimulating, and interdisciplinary research environment. We provide individual research supervision in a wide variety of religious traditions and comparative and interdisciplinary topics. Supervisors are experts in their fields and thoroughly familiar with the religions, cultures, languages, and geographical areas they specialise in.

In addition to individual supervision the Department offers research training at various levels: an obligatory research writing workshop which prepares year 1 MPhil students for their upgrade to the PhD level; a weekly seminar for PhD students in years 2 and 3 to discuss work in progress and receive feedback before submitting their thesis; a departmental research seminar in which both staff and students present papers on their research projects and discuss them in an interdisciplinary setting.

You will also have the opportunity to attend seminars, lectures, and conferences offered by the various specialist SOAS Research CentresCentre for Jewish Studies, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions, Centre of Buddhist Studies, Centre of Jaina Studies and Centre of World Christianity. Our centres run regular evening lecture series, workshops, and conferences which host visiting speakers from other universities in Britain, Europe, and globally.

As you think about commencing your PhD with us, we invite you to contact a potential supervisor in your area of interest, ideally with a first draft of your project proposal .This member of staff will then advise you on your project and on any questions you might have before making your application.

Why study Research Degrees: Religions and Philosophies at SOAS

  • we are World Top 50 for Arts & Humanities (QS World University Rankings 2022) - with a rate of 91.7% overall student satisfaction (NSS 2021)
  • we have been ranked 3rd for research outputs and 7th place overall in the Theology and Religious Studies research rankings in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021
  • SOAS is ranked in the top 5 universities in the UK for producing a CEO or Managing Director, according to new research
  • employability — our strong focus on enhancing your career prospects and practical skills are integrated across the programme
  • led by our global community of research-active academic staff we have been very successful in acquiring research funding, hosting research centres and are actively engaged in professional networks with scholars worldwide

Further information


A SOAS PhD degree has to be completed within a maximum of four years. A draft of the thesis must be ready at the end of year 3; during year 4 the student is on continuation status, also referred to as an 'extension of writing up'; the completed thesis must be submitted until September 15 of year 4 of registration.

All first year research students are registered for MPhil status. The outcome of a mini-viva at the end of term 3 conducted by the three members of the student’s supervisory committee determines whether they will be (a) upgraded to PhD candidate status, (b) continue as MPhil candidates, (c) need to revise his or her proposal, or (d) should terminate registration.

In the first year students develop their specific research projects and plans in consultation with the three members of their supervisory committee. Individual supervisions, the obligatory departmental research writing workshop, and generic core writing courses help students prepare their upgrade submission materials which have to be submitted by the submission deadline in May.

Year-by-year requirements for full-time MPhil and PhD research students

Year 1

During Year 1, the student refines the research proposal and decides in conjunction with his/her Supervisory Committee whether the research project should be directed towards the goal of an MPhil or a PhD degree. Students who wish to work towards the PhD must pass the process of upgrading registration from MPhil to PhD candidacy.  They must provide the following to the Supervisory Committee by the May deadline (exact date to be confirmed. by SOAS Registry):

1. Year 1-3/4: Minutes of supervisory meetings have to be recorded by the student on the Moodle logbook throughout.
2. Term 1-2: Evidence of obligatory attendance of MPhil/PhD Research Workshop (SRRESWRIT_N1/01)
3. In Term 2: Pre-circulation and brief oral presentation of a draft chapter of the upgrading submission (10,000 words) for discussion in the MPhil/PhD Research Workshop
4. Upgrading submission of 20,000 words in May to the three supervisors and the research tutor via PDF in an email attachment:

  • Introduction (including Literature Review, Sources & Methodology, Chapter Outline, Research Plan & Time Schedule, Draft Bibliography),
  • draft core chapter
  • statement on research ethics in case of fieldwork.

5. The procedure of the upgrade viva at SoR is as follows:

  • The three supervisors write individual reports on the submitted documents and circulate them among themselves before the upgrade viva.
  • The 1 hour long 'mini viva' is held with the candidate and his/her three supervisors in May/June.
  • The supervisory committee comes to a collective judgement and records and signs the upgrade form accordingly (and ethics review form if 'yes' is ticked by the candidate in the upgrade form):
  • The decision will be communicated to the candidate orally immediately after the viva.
  • The principal supervisor passes a written summary of the three individual reports, containing valuable feedback, to the candidate.

Year 2: Fieldwork or data collection

After a successful upgrade to MPhil/PhD status students can go abroad to do fieldwork or do research in local libraries. During the second year student work on their source material, whether it consists of texts, interviews, surveys, or visual, etc., sources.

  • Regular reports must be submitted to supervisor, via email or in person. The other members of the research committee need to be kept informed as well.
  • A second core chapter will normally be completed.

Year 3: Completion of full draft

During the third year of their PhD students are expected to write a draft of their thesis. This draft must be ready at the end of the year to proceed to continuation status in year 4.

  • Required presentation at the PhD/MPhil Research Seminar.
  • Application for continuation status requires the submission of a draft of the thesis at the end of year 3 together with the continuation approval form ( not later than 31 August ).
  • All three members of the supervisory committee read the draft and provide written feedback. All committee members sign the Extension of Writing-Up Form (download doc | pdf) if the Committee is satisfied that the draft thesis can be developed into a thesis of a quality worthy for submission for examination in the subsequent academic year. The final date for submission is 15 September .

Students will then be allowed to register on Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) Status in Year 4 at reduced fees during year 4, assuming 4 years are needed to complete the thesis.

Teaching experience may be available in Year Two or Three, depending on Department needs.

Year 4: Completion and submission of thesis

The thesis must be completed and submitted by the end of year 4 not later than 15 September .

At the viva (thesis examination), the examiners aim to confirm:

  1. that they have satisfied themselves that the thesis is genuinely the work of the candidate
  2. that the thesis forms a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject, and affords evidence of originality by:
    1. the discovery of new facts; and/or
    2. the exercise of independent critical power
  3. that the thesis is satisfactory as regards literary presentation
  4. that the thesis is of a standard to merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form.

For important rules and regulations concerning research students, see:

  • Research at SOAS
  • University of London Research Degree Regulations and Code of Practice
  • Doctoral School forms and essential information needed at various stages of your study

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

The SOAS Religions and Philosophies Department offers a vibrant, stimulating, and interdisciplinary research environment. Our members of staff cover a wide range of religious traditions, geographic areas, and methodological approaches to the study of religions. We have been very successful in acquiring research funding, we host a number of research centres, and we are actively engaged in professional networks with scholars worldwide.

SOAS Library

Students also benefit from the rewarding learning environment SOAS provides more broadly. The 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. Moreover, every year there is a lively events programme that attracts renowned speakers from around the world, allowing students to engage with cutting edge debates on contemporary politics.

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

Please note that fees go up each year.

See research fees for further details.


In addition to an understanding of global faiths, histories and cultures, graduates from the Department of Religions and Philosophies develop the skills to analyse and communicate ideas in a clear, rational and comprehensive manner. These key proficiencies are valuable in many careers and are transferable to a wide range of sectors and roles.

Recent graduates have been hired by:

  • Asia Society
  • British Council
  • Cabinet Office
  • Chatham House
  • Edelman
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
  • King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Princeton University
  • Royal Government of Cambodia
  • The Happiness Factory
  • The Inter Faith Network for the UK
  • The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  • UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
  • United Nations Development Programme

Find out about our Careers Service