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About SOAS University of London
SOAS, University of London is the only Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.
SOAS is a remarkable institution. Uniquely combining language scholarship, disciplinary expertise and regional focus, it has the largest concentration in Europe of academic staff concerned with Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
On the one hand, this means that SOAS scholars grapple with pressing issues - democracy, development, human rights, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, social change - confronting two-thirds of humankind while at the same time remaining guardians of specialised knowledge in languages and periods and regions not available anywhere else in the UK.
This makes SOAS synonymous with intellectual enquiry and achievement. It is a global academic base and a crucial resource for London. We live in a world of shrinking borders and of economic and technological simultaneity. Yet it is also a world in which difference and regionalism present themselves acutely. It is a world that SOAS is distinctively positioned to analyse, understand and explain.
Our academic focus on the languages, cultures and societies of Africa, Asia and the Middle East makes us an indispensable interpreter in a complex world.
SOAS, University of London at a glance:
SOAS is above the national average for student satisfaction at 89% (National student survey 2013).
SOAS has more than 5,000 students from 133 countries on campus, and just over 50% per cent of them are from outside the UK. In addition, about 3,600 students around the world are taking one our distance learning programmes.
There is a roughly equal split between undergraduates (55%) and postgraduates (45%).
24% of undergraduates are over 21 when they start their course.
More than 350 undergraduate degree combinations are available in social sciences, arts, humanities and languages, all with a distinctive regional focus and global relevance. And over 115 postgraduate programmes.
SOAS offers an unparalleled range of non-European languages, all of which may be studied without prior knowledge. The school was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2009 for the excellence, breadth and depth of its language teaching.
More than forty per cent of our undergraduate degree programmes offer the opportunity to spend a year studying in another country.
SOAS has the largest concentration of specialist staff (300+ academics) concerned with the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East at any university in the world.
In the Research Assessment Exercise of 2008, more than 85 per cent of our submissions were ranked at either the highest grade of 4* (world-leading quality), 3* (internationally excellent) or 2* (recognised internationally).
Small-group teaching remains an important feature of study at SOAS – our student-staff ratio (11.3:1) is one of the best in the UK.
Over 115 Postgraduate Programmes
SOAS has over 115 postgraduate programmes taught on campus and a wide range of degrees, certificates and diplomas taught by distance learning, in the social sciences, humanities and languages, with a distinctive regional focus and global relevance.
The SOAS Library – recently refurbished – has more than 1.5 million items and extensive electronic resources for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and attracts scholars from all around the world.
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
The Faculty is home to the departments of Anthropology & Sociology, Art & Archaeology, History, Music, Study of Religions and the Centre for Media Studies, as well as a number of subject specific Centres.
The study of arts and humanities has been central to SOAS activity since 1917. All Faculty staff are specialists in regions as well as disciplines, and all subjects taught at undergraduate level within the Faculty can be combined with other disciplines across the School. Indeed, the range of course options and combinations is a distinctive characteristic of studying at SOAS, with the option of studying language units included within all our degrees.
In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework Music, which was already ranked highly, has risen to 5th in the UK, with over half of its publications judged ‘world-leading’; History of Art and Archaeology has seen a dramatic rise up the league tables, from 17th to 8th (out of 25), coming in the top 5 nationally for the quality of its publications. This is just one indication of the international importance of the research activity carried out by academic staff, and staff research provides the basis of teaching activity in the Faculty.
At postgraduate level the Faculty is committed to providing stimulating courses that enable students to study particular countries or regions in depth, and to explore comparisons and contrasts across the major areas of Asia and Africa. The programmes are designed to provide students with the knowledge they need to understand the nature of other societies and cultures, and to form ideas about the past, present and future of the complex and multicultural world in which we all live.
Faculty of Languages and Cultures
Six of the academic departments are devoted to teaching and research in the languages, literatures and cultures of Africa, China and Inner Asia, Japan and Korea, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia, with the seventh teaching and conducting research in Linguistics. The Language Centre caters to the needs of non-degree students and governmental and non-governmental organisations. It maintains a huge portfolio of courses, including year-long diploma programmes, weekly evening classes in about 40 different African and Asian languages, and tailored intensive one-to-one courses. The Language Centre also offers courses in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Faculty of Law and Social Sciences
The faculty is the largest in the School in terms of student and staff numbers and consists of the departments of Development Studies, Economics, Financial and Management Studies, Politics and International Studies and the School of Law, as well as the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Sciences, the Centre for Gender Studies, the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, the Centre of Taiwan Studies and a number of department-specific centres. All five departments offer undergraduate programmes, and all but Finance and International Management offer joint undergraduate degrees which can be combined with other disciplines from across the School. Each department also offers a range of masters-level programmes with a regional or disciplinary specialism, as well as a postgraduate research programme. The range of course options and combinations is one of the most distinctive characteristics of studying at SOAS and all students are given the option of studying an Asian or African language, either as part of or on top of their degree.
Staff in the faculty come from all over the world and combine regional knowledge with disciplinary specialisms. Teaching draws heavily on academic staff’s individual research which allows the faculty to maintain a large portfolio of courses, often exploring cutting-edge issues. Many faculty members have played a significant part in public debates and policy-making in relation to Asia and Africa. Academics in the faculty are regularly consulted by governments, public bodies and multilateral organisations including the United Nations and the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, European Commission, DFID and other country-specific organisations and NGOs.
History of SOAS University of London
The School of Oriental Studies was founded in 1916 at 2 Finsbury Circus, London, the then premises of the London Institution. The school received its royal charter on 5 June 1916 and admitted its first students on 18 January 1917. The school was formally inaugurated a month later on 23 February 1917 by King George V. Among those in attendance were Earl Curzon of Kedleston, formerly Viceroy of India, and other cabinet officials.
The school's founding mission was to advance British scholarship, science and commerce in Africa and Asia and to provide London University with a rival to the famous Oriental schools of Berlin, Petrograd and Paris. The school immediately became integral in training British administrators, colonial officials and spies for overseas postings across theBritish Empire. Africa was added to the school's name in 1938.
For sometime in the mid-1930s, prior to moving to its current location at Thornhaugh Street, Bloomsbury, the school was located at Vandon House, Vandon Street, London SW1, with the library located at Clarence House. Its move to new premises in Bloomsbury was held up by delays in construction and the half-completed building took a hit during theBlitz in September 1940. With the onset of the Second World War, many University of London colleges were evacuated from London in 1939 and billeted on universities all over the provinces. The School was, on the Government's advice, transferred to Christ's College, Cambridge.
In 1940, when it became apparent that a return to London was possible, the school returned to the city and was housed for some months in eleven rooms at Broadway Court, 8Broadway, London SW1. In 1942, the War Office joined with the school's Japanese department to help alleviate the shortage in Japanese linguists. State scholarships were offered to select grammar and public school boys to train as military translators and intelligence officers. Lodged at Dulwich College in south London, the students became affectionately known as the Dulwich boys.
Bletchley Park, the headquarters of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), was concerned about the slow pace of the SOAS, so they started their own Japanese-language courses at Bedford in February 1942. The courses were directed by army cryptographer, Col. John Tiltman, and retired Royal Navy officer, Capt. Oswald Tuck.
In recognition of SOAS's role during the war, the 1946 Scarborough Commission (officially the "Commission of Enquiry into the Facilities for Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies") report recommended a major expansion in provision for the study of Asia and the school benefited greatly from the subsequent largesse. The SOAS School of Law was established in 1947 with Professor Vesey-Fitzgerald as its first head. Growth however was curtailed by following years of economic austerity, and upon Sir Cyril Philipsassuming the directorship in 1956, the school was in a vulnerable state. Over his twenty-year stewardship, Phillips transformed the school, raising funds and broadening the school's remit.
A college of the University of London, the School's fields include Law, Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages with special reference to Asia and Africa. The SOAS Library, located in the Philips Building is the UK's national resource for materials relating to Asia and Africa and is the largest of its kind in the world. The school has grown considerably over the past thirty years, from fewer than 1,000 students in the 1970s to more than 6,000 students today, nearly half of them postgraduates. SOAS is partnered with the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris which is often considered the French equivalent of SOAS.
In 2011, the Privy Council approved changes to the school's charter allowing it to award degrees in its own name, following the trend set by fellow colleges the London School of Economics, University College London and King's College London. All new students registered from September 2013 will qualify for a SOAS, University of London award.
In 2012 a new visual identity for SOAS was launched to be used in print, digital media and around the campus. The SOAS tree symbol, first implemented in 1989, was redrawn and recoloured in gold, with the new symbol incorporating the leaves of ten trees, including the English Oak representing England; the Bodhi, Coral Bark Maple, Teakrepresenting Asia; the Mountain Acacia, African Pear, Lasiodiscus representing Africa; and the Date Palm, Pomegranate and Ghaf representing the Middle East.
Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Privy Council
Year of first Accreditation - 1916
- In 2005, SOAS placed 4th among United Kingdom universities in a Guardian poll.
- In the subject tables of this poll, SOAS was placed 3rd for Anthropology, 4th for Economics, 3rd for History and History of Art, 6th for Law, 5th for Music, 3rd for Politics, and 3rd for Theology and Religious Studies. The History Department obtained a rare 6 research rating in the last government assessment, placing it as only one of three departments in the country to achieve such a status.
- The 2015 QS World University Rankings places SOAS 46th in the world for Arts & Humanities and 13th globally for Development Studies.
- SOAS's Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS) is ranked in the top-ten for Business Studies in the 2013 Complete University Guide's League Table. The research strength of the department has been previously recognised by the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) where 90 per cent was rated as internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world leading quality.
- The Times Higher and the Guardian Education chose to use an average of the profile or GPA (Grade Point Average); both rankings placed the SOAS Department of Anthropology equal second, ranking just behind Cambridge with LSE.
- According to the 2008 United Kingdom Research Assessment Exercise, SOAS is the national leader in the study of Asia.
Student Life @SOAS
SOAS is one of London’s top universities, with a friendly, cosmopolitan community of students. With everything you need in one place, including a student hub in the North Block of the iconic Senate House, it’s not surprising our students describe SOAS as ‘a home from home’.
Located in central London, SOAS is a short walk from many of London’s bars, cafes and world-famous social and cultural sights. The SOAS campus includes internationally recognised buildings like our Brunei Gallery, Japanese Rooftop Garden and a UK top-five library facility.
You’ll find making friends at SOAS easy by joining any of a wide range of sports, societies, events and student-led clubs. At SOAS University of London, you’ll study in a lively and international environment, where you will have the opportunity to excel in the subjects you already love, and in others that are just waiting for you to discover them.
Our library is one of the world’s most important sources of academic information on Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Housing over 1.2 million volumes, manuscripts, rare books and electronic resources.
Our language centre is here to help you master new languages. With short courses available in Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Persian and more. We pride ourselves on delivering highly enjoyable and accessible courses from al walks of life.
The Brunei Gallery is dedicated to showcasing contemporary and historical exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. With permanent displays in the Japanese Roof Garden, the Brunei Gallery makes a stimulating haven in the heart of London.
Faith and Prayer rooms
SOAS is not only a centre for the academic study of religions and cultures at the heart of a great world city, it is also a community of people where individuals are free to live out their faith in an open and encouraging environment.
Our Students' Union makes your life in London easier, more interesting and packed with things to do. With around 50 clubs and societies, we want students to get involved or even start their own club!
Student Central as part of University of London
Get involved with sports, societies, events and access to bars by joining Student Central. Full time SOAS students can join over 120,000 students from other colleges in a wide range of events and activities organised by Student Central.