About SOAS

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is a college of the University of London and the only Higher Education institution in the UK specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

In 2008, SOAS jumped 15 places up to ninth best university nationwide in The Good University Guide, and we were rated fourth in London. We also moved three places up to eighth in The Guardian newspaper’s league tables of top UK universities. 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 remains a guardian of specialised knowledge in languages and periods and regions not available anywhere else in the UK. On the other hand, it means that SOAS scholars grapple with pressing issues – democracy, development, human rights, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, social change – confronting two-thirds of humankind.

This makes SOAS synonymous with intellectual excitement 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 at a glance:

  • SOAS has more than 4,600 students from 130+ countries, and 45% of them are from outside the UK
  • Just over half our students are studying for undergraduate degrees, and 26% of them are aged 21 or over at the start of their course
  • More than 350 degree combinations are available in social sciences, arts, humanities and languages, all with a distinctive regional focus
  • SOAS offers an unparalleled range of non-European languages, all of which may be studied without prior knowledge
  • More than a quarter of our 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
  • Small group teaching remains an important feature of study at SOAS – our student-staff ratio (11:1) is one of the best in the UK
  • SOAS has about 100 postgraduate programmes (taught and distance learning) in the social sciences, humanities and languages with a distinctive regional focus and global relevance
  • The 2008 independent assessment of the quality of research activities in UK universities (the RAE) puts SOAS amongst the top research universities in the country
  • All departments assessed in Teaching Quality Audits in recent years have been awarded maximum or near-maximum ratings
  • The SOAS Library has more than 1.2 million items and extensive electronic resources for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and attracts scholars from all over the world



SOAS is based in the heart of London, and the capital’s rich cultural and social life is literally on its doorstep. Its two campuses – Russell Square and Vernon Square – are just 20 minutes’ walking distance from one another and very well served by all forms of public transport. The nearest underground stations, Russell Square and King’s Cross, offer a direct link to London Heathrow Airport and several of London’s main railway stations are within easy reach.

The Russell Square campus is in historic Bloomsbury, an area of leafy squares well-known as a haven from the bustle of the city, and also an intellectual centre. The exhibition spaces of the Brunei Gallery and the Foyle Special Collections Gallery are both to be found in the Brunei Gallery Building opposite the main college building. Other colleges of the University of London, the British Museum and the British Library are just a few minutes away.

The Vernon Square campus – housed in an English Heritage listed building – is close to the transport links of King’s Cross as well as Islington’s boutiques and restaurants. Adjacent to the two SOAS student residences (Dinwiddy House and Paul Robeson House), this campus offers state-of-the-art teaching and learning resources and an internet café alongside spacious social amenities.

Many of the social and sports activities offered by the School are either on site or provided by the University of London Union (ULU), two minutes from Russell Square. The West End’s shops, theatres and nightlife, and Oxford Street and Covent Garden are also all within easy walking distance.

International students

  • Over 40% of the students at SOAS come from outside the UK, which makes it an exceptionally cosmopolitan and diverse place to study.
  • Every year the number of countries represented at the School continues to expand – we currently represent over 130 different countries from around the world.

At SOAS we make every effort to help you settle in to your new surroundings and provide support. A special ‘Welcome Day’ is organised for all international students, and usually takes place on the weekend before the start of the Autumn term.


In-sessional English language courses are available for students who feel that they need extra help with their English, while the Student Welfare Office can offer advice on matters such as visas, working in the UK and your finances.

The Students’ Union has its own International Officer, as well as a number of regional societies where you will be able to meet your countrymen and women.

The support doesn’t stop there! As an alumnus of SOAS you have access to a worldwide network of over 30,000 other SOAS alumni, either through the SOAS alumni website or through country associations.

 Undergraduate Admissions

  • Approximately 1900 undergraduate students currently study at SOAS across the three faculties.
  • With such a relatively small number of students, our staff:student ratio stands at 1:12, and small group teaching remains an important feature of study at SOAS.
  • Teaching of the undergraduate courses takes place at both the Russell Square and the Vernon Square campuses.


As a unique institution specialising in the study of Asia and Africa, SOAS is a vibrant and exciting place to undertake postgraduate study.

There are many reasons for choosing to study at SOAS.

  • The School’s rankings in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (2008) puts us among the top research institutions in the country; 11 SOAS departments had 60% or more of their work ranked at either the highest grade of 4* (world-leading quality) or 3* (internationally excellent).
  • The School’s library, with over 1.2 million volumes, is the national resource for the study of Asia and Africa.
  • Over 300 members of academic staff who are at the forefront of their fields.
  • Over 1500 postgraduate students from 138 countries.



Africa, Anthropology & Sociology, Art & Archaeology, China & Inner Asia, Development Studies, Economics, Financial & Management Studies, History, Japan & Korea, Language Centre, Linguistics, Law, Music, Near & Middle East, Politics & International Studies, South Asia, South East Asia, Study of Religions, Joint Degrees, Inter-Departmental Degrees.

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