University of London SOAS

University of London LogoUniversity of London SOAS

SOAS University of London (The School of Oriental and African Studies), is a public research university in London, England, and a constituent college of the University of London. Founded in 1916, SOAS is ranked within the top 25 universities in the United Kingdom by The Guardian University Guide 2018.

Located in the heart of Bloomsbury in central London, SOAS is the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and is ranked 7th globally in Development Studies by the 2017 QS World University Rankings. The School is organised into faculties of humanities, languages and social sciences. It is home to the SOAS School of Law. SOAS offers around 350 undergraduate bachelor’s degree combinations, over 100 one-year master’s degrees and PhD programmes in nearly every department.

SOAS has produced several heads of states, government ministers, diplomats, central bankers, Supreme Court judges, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and many other notable leaders around the world.

Organisation and administration



Edward Denison Ross by John Lavery

Since its foundation, the school has had nine directors. The inaugural director was the celebrated linguist Sir Edward Denison Ross. Under the stewardship of Sir Cyril Philips, the school saw considerable growth and modernisation. Under Colin Bundy in the 2000s, the school became one of the top ranked universities both domestically and internationally. The current Director is Valerie Amos.

Appointed Director
1916 Sir Edward Denison Ross
1937 Sir Ralph Lilley Turner
1956 Sir Cyril Philips
1976 Sir Jeremy Cowan
1989 Sir Michael McWilliam
1996 Sir Tim Lankester
2001 Colin Bundy
2006 Paul Webley
2015 Baroness Valerie Amos

Faculties and departments

SOAS, University of London is divided into three faculties. These are further divided into academic departments. SOAS has many Centres and Institutes, each of which is affiliated to a particular faculty.

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities houses the departments of Anthropology & Sociology, History of Art & Archaeology, History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies and the Centre for Media Studies. It offers courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, with an emphasis on Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. A gift from the Alphawood Foundation in 2013 created the Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian art, the David Snellgrove Senior Lectureship in Tibetan and Buddhist art, and a Senior Lectureship in Curating and Museology of Asian Art, as well as a number of scholarships for students, making the Department of Art & Archaeology a key institution at a global level in the study of Southeast Asia.

Faculty of Languages and Cultures

Department of Linguistics

The SOAS Department of Linguistics was the first ever linguistics department in the United Kingdom, founded in 1932 as a centre for research and study in Oriental and African languages. J. R. Firth, known internationally for his work in phonology and semantics, was Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor of General Linguistics at the school between 1938 and 1956.

Faculty of Law and Social Sciences

The Faculty of Law and Social Sciences houses 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. It offers courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, many with an emphasis on Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

SOAS School of Law

One of the largest individual departments, the SOAS School of Law is one of Britain’s leading law schools and the sole law school in the world focusing on the study of Asian, African and Middle Eastern legal systems. The School of Law has over 400 students. It offers programmes at the LL.B., LL.M. and MPhil/PhD levels. International students have been a majority at all levels for many years.

The SOAS School of Law has an unrivaled concentration of expertise in the laws of Asian and African countries, human rights, transnational commercial law, environmental law, and comparative law. The SOAS School of Law was ranked 15th out of all 98 British law schools by The Guardian League Table in 2016.

Although many modules at SOAS embody a substantial element of English common law, all modules are taught (as much as possible) in a comparative or international manner with an emphasis on the way in which law functions in society. Thus, law studies at SOAS are broad and comparative in their orientation. All students study a significant amount of non-English law, start in the first year of the LL.B. course, where ‘Legal Systems of Asia and Africa’ is compulsory. Specialised modules in the laws and legal systems of particular countries and regions are also encouraged, and faculty experts conduct modules in these subjects every year.