MA South Asian Area Studies


Read more about this programme on the school's website

Programme Description

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or part-time

The MA in South Asian Studies 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.

The 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 and History.

The 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.


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.

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; and the 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 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.

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

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


Students take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. 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 language acquisition modules, only one of these can be from 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


  • Dissertation in South Asian Area Studies

Anthropology (minor only)

  • Culture and Society of South Asia
  • African and Asian Diasporas in the Modern World

Art and Archaeology

  • The Indian Temple
  • Arts of the Tamil Temple


  • Indian Cinema: Its History and Social Context
  • Indian Cinema: Key Issues


  • Culture and Conflict in Nepal
  • The Politics of Culture in Contemporary South Asia

Some background in Economics is a prerequisite for these modules. Please contact the convenor for details.

  • Political Economy of Development and Change in South Asia
  • Topics in the Political Economy of Contemporary South Asia


  • Islam in South Asia
  • Environmental History of Asia
  • Colonialism and Nationalism in South Asia
  • Gender, law and the family in the history of modern South Asia

Language [one language option as minor only]

  • Bengali Language 1 A (PG)
  • Bengali Language 1 B (PG)
  • Bengali Language 2 (PG)
  • Hindi Language 1 A (PG)
  • Hindi Language 1 B (PG)
  • Hindi Language 2 (PG)
  • Hindi Language 3 (PG)
  • Hindi Language 4 (PG)
  • Readings in Contemporary Hindi (PG)
  • Nepali Language 1 A (PG)
  • Nepali Language 1 B (PG)
  • Nepali Language 2 (PG)
  • Prakrit Language 1 (PG)
  • Sanskrit Language 1 A (PG)
  • Sanskrit Language 1 B (PG)
  • Sanskrit Language 2 (PG)
  • Punjabi Language 1 A (PG)
  • Punjabi Language 1 B (PG)
  • Urdu Language 1 A (PG)
  • Urdu Language 1 B (PG)
  • Urdu Language 2 (PG)
  • Urdu Literacy A (PG)
  • Urdu Literacy B (PG)
  • Elementary Written Persian A (PG)
  • Elementary Written Persian B (PG)
  • Intensive Persian Language
  • Intermediate Persian Language (PG)
  • Persian 3 (PG)
  • Tibetan (Classical)
  • Tibetan (Classical)


  • Literatures of South Asia
  • Postcolonial Theory and Practice
  • Theory and techniques of Comparative Literature
  • Sanskrit Literature
  • Directed Readings in the Literature of a Modern South Asian Language
  • Sanskrit Texts from the Hindu Tradition
  • Literature & Colonialism in North India (Masters)
  • Narratives of Mobility in Contemporary Hindi Literature (Masters)


  • Law and Society in South Asia


  • Indian vocal music: Styles and histories
  • Sacred Sound in South Asia


  • Government and politics of modern South Asia

Study of Religions & Philosophies

  • Imag(in)ing Buddhahood in South Asia (1)
  • Imag(in)ing Buddhahood in South Asia (2)
  • Religions and Development
  • Issues in Religion and Media
  • Buddhism in Tibet
  • Buddhist Meditation in India and Tibet
  • The Origins and Development of Yoga in Ancient India

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.

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.

Admissions and Applications

You can apply for this course via the online application form.

We aim to assess a complete application and provide a decision within a 5-week time frame. Overseas students who require a Tier 4 visa and wish to join SOAS should bear in mind visa applications can take several weeks, so you should apply as soon as possible.

Consideration of Application

The whole application, including transcript and references, is considered before a decision is reached. You are therefore advised to submit a complete application including references and transcript (where required). An incomplete application will add considerable delays to the decision-making process.

Students will receive an acknowledgement of their application. Each application is carefully considered and although we try and respond as quickly as possible, we do ask that students should expect to receive a response within five weeks of receipt.

Candidates who are available in the United Kingdom may be called for an interview. The absence of academic members of staff (or instance on study leave) may affect the timing of decisions.

Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent).

English Language Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent).

International students

For EU and International students who need a visa, if unconditional entry scores are achieved we accept qualifications from several countries, as well as a range of international qualifications and tests.

If a Tier 4 entry visa is required then a SELT, such as UKVI IELTS may be needed. For this reason, we recommend all Tier 4 visa students to choose the UKVI IELTS Academic test as the test of first resort.

Last updated Nov 2019

About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read Less
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