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MA Religions of Asia and Africa and Intensive Language

Course Description

Who is this programme for?:

The MA Religions of Asia and Africa is in the first place a rewarding cultural and human experience. It is designed both as an end qualification in itself and as a platform preparing students for more advanced graduate work.

It typically suits students falling into one of the following three categories:

- students planning to pursue further research, which may involve at a subsequent stage the acquisition of a doctoral degree and a career in higher education;

- students willing to pursue a career or professional activity, for which advanced knowledge of the religions of Asia and Africa and of the theoretical and practical issues involved in their study is essential: arts, media, teaching, NGOs and charities, interfaith dialogue, consultancy for governmental agencies or the private sector, religious institutions, museums, and more.

- students who wish to pursue the academic study of religions as a complement to their personal experience and commitments: religious ministers and clerics from all confessions, believers, yoga and meditation practitioners; anyone interested in specific religious traditions or in religion as an essential dimension of life, and in the critical and experiential enhancement that their academic study may offer.

The two-year intensive language pathway is directed at students who want to engage with a country in a professional as well as academic way, as the intensive language course will enable them to reach a near proficient knowledge of the language.

The MA Religions of Asia and Africa at SOAS is the premier postgraduate curriculum in the U.K. for the study of the religions of Asia and Africa. It covers a wider range of religious traditions than most comparable programmes, whether in the U.K. or abroad: Buddhism in nearly all its doctrinal and regional varieties, Asian and African Christianities, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism, Zoroastrianism as well as the local religious cultures of Asia and Africa. It is strongly interdisciplinary and methodologically diverse, offering advanced learning in the theory of religion as well as in historical, anthropological, philosophical, sociological and textual approaches to the study of particular religious traditions.

It provides a unique opportunity to tap cutting-edge academic expertise and library facilities on Asian and African religions as part of a spirited, cosmopolitan student community and within the intense religious and cultural scene of London.

It can also be taken with an intensive language pathway over two years, therefore making this programme unique in Europe.

For the Japanese pathway please see the webpage for the Japanese pathway of the programme and contact the MA convenor of that pathway for further information on the language component. Further information on entry level language requirements can be found on the programme page at: http://www.soas.ac.uk/japankorea/programmes/ma-and-intensive-language-japanese/

The Korean pathway is designed for beginner learners of Korean. Students with prior knowledge of Korean are advised to contact the programme convenor, Dr Anders Karlsson (). Students will take four course units in the Korean language, one of them at a Korean university during the summer after year 1.

The Arabic pathway is designed for beginner learners of Arabic. Students will take four units of Arabic, one of them at the Qasid Institute in Jordan or another partner institution during the summer after year 1. Programme convenor: Dr Mustafa Shah ()


Visit the website http://www.soas.ac.uk/religions-and-philosophies/programmes/ma-religions-of-asia-and-africa-and-intensive-language/


Students are generally required to follow taught units to the equivalent of three full courses (which may include one language course), and to submit a dissertation of 10,000 words.

In the two-year language pathway, students take 2 intensive language units and one discipline unit in their first year. During the summer, they will participate in a summer school abroad (location dependant on language). Upon their return, they will take one intensive language unit in their second year and two discipline units.

Programme Specification

MA Religions of Asia and Africa and Intensive Language Programme Specification (pdf; 300kb) - http://www.soas.ac.uk/religions-and-philosophies/programmes/ma-religions-of-asia-and-africa-and-intensive-language/file93574.pdf

Teaching & Learning

Aims and Outcomes:

- Advanced knowledge and understanding of selected approaches, methods and theories in the study of religions, with particular reference to the religious traditions of Asia and Africa.

- Advanced skills in researching and writing about topics in religious studies, also as a platform for further research at doctoral level.

- Advanced skills in presentation or communication of knowledge and understanding of topics in religious studies.

- Specialisation in one area from among those covered by the units listed in the programme structure.

- In the two-year pathway, the student will also be provided with a near proficient ability in a language.


- Students will learn how to assess data and evidence critically, locate and synthesise source materials, critically evaluate conflicting interpretations and sources, use research resources (library catalogues, journal databases, citation indices) and other relevant traditional sources.

- Subject specific skills, such as manuscript transcription, textual bibliography, the editing of texts; familiarity with the study of religions as an academic field of study and its varieties.

- Aspects of literature in the Study of Religions, philosophy, learning, iconography and history, the impact of religion on society.

- Acquisition of language skills.

Intellectual (thinking) skills:

- Students should become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.

- Students will develop the capacity to discuss theoretical and epistemological issues in an articulate, informed, and intellectual manner.

- Students will learn to become precise and critical in their assessment of scholarly arguments and to question interpretations, however authoritative, in order to reassess evidence for themselves.

- Students will learn to present complex theoretical arguments clearly and creatively.

- Those students who take a language option should be able to assess primary sources in foreign languages and critically evaluate interpretations proposed by different scholars.

- Students will acquire both theoretical and regional expertise in order to develop and apply self-reflexive approaches to the issues raised by the cross-cultural study of religions.

Subject-based practical skills:
The programme aims to help students with the following practical skills:

- Academic writing.

- IT-based information retrieval and processing.

- Presentational skills.

- Examination techniques.

- Independent study skills and research techniques.

- Reflexive learning.

- In the two year intensive language pathway, to acquire/develop skills in a language to Effective Operational Proficiency level, i.e., being able to communicate in written and spoken medium in a contemporary language

Transferable skills:
The programme will encourage students to:

- Write concisely and with clarity.

- Effectively structure and communicate ideas (oral and written).

- Explore and assess a variety of sources for research purposes.

- Work to deadlines and high academic standards.

- Assess the validity and cogency of arguments.

- Make judgements involving complex factors.

- Develop self-reflexivity.

- Develop an awareness of the ethical complexity of representational practices.

- Question the nature of social and cultural constructs.

Find out how to apply here - http://www.soas.ac.uk/admissions/pg/howtoapply/

Visit the MA Religions of Asia and Africa and Intensive Language page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Meng Wang

The MA programme Religions of Asia and Africa (Buddhism pathway) has offered me a good opportunity to explore the Buddhist traditions in various forms and contexts. In this course, I have been able develop an in-depth understanding of the subject knowledge and necessary research methodologies. This has set a firm foundation for me to further my study as a postgraduate research student. The teachers in this programme are not only experts in their fields but also very warm-hearted and caring. They have given me great support for my progress in the course.

My biggest inspiration at SOAS is the unique atmosphere the School creates in which students are encouraged to engage in a multi-cultural experience. This has influenced my perspective on academic study, and I enjoy more and more my life and study as a student in SOAS.

No matter where you are from and what you study, you have a fantastic opportunity to learn a language as part of your programme. There are a wide range of Oriental languages to choose from, depending on your personal interest or area of research. That is why in a language class, you meet with students from across different disciplines and cultures. There is so much to learn from them, too. So, learning language becomes a wonderful opportunity to explore a variety of cultures.

One day at the beginning of the first term, after our Tibetan language class, my classmate and I went to one of the study rooms on the ground floor of the library. While we were doing our revision on Tibetan, a group of students were discussing their Arabic class. Then, a friend came in and talked about her difficulty in catching up with the Thai language class. We were speaking in our native language – Chinese. An English boy sitting behind us, overhearing our conversation, started to talk in fluent Chinese, offering help to our friend about how to learn Thai. We were very impressed. This is what I like the most about SOAS.

(Student Profile)

Simon Perfect

I chose to study at SOAS because the Study of Religions postgraduate course offered exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to be able to study in detail several diverse religious traditions side-by-side, from sociological and historical perspectives as well as theological. The SOAS course has proved ideal in this. Having focused largely in my undergraduate degree on European history, studying religious traditions from other parts of the world has been both challenging and enlightening. Teasing out tough topics with friends over a drink in the bar has been fun.The MA course has been incredibly formative for my academic thinking and personal beliefs. It has inspired me to continue researching the place of religion in contemporary Britain.

The Religious Studies department offers the perfect combination of unparalleled breadth of modules with excellent teaching by leading academics. Throughout the year, in addition to my three formal modules I attended a lecture course on theoretical issues in the field. This gave me a great overview in twentieth century philosophical approaches to religion. I was sad not to have had time to sit in more courses!

SOAS is truly cosmopolitan. It has been a pleasure to meet and learn from people from many different backgrounds and beliefs. During my time at SOAS my friends introduced me to the world of Bollywood movies! Before watching the first one I was assured that it would be an emotional rollercoaster. I was sceptical, but was proved wrong. I am now quite a fan.


Canon Collins Scholarships - No. of awards TBC

These scholarships are for Masters study in any subject field.
The application process normally opens in December and closes in February, for study commencing in September the following year. Please go to the Canon Collins website and click "Apply for A Scholarship" and then "Canon Collins Scholarship for Masters Study in the UK" for further information on how to apply.

Value of Scholarship(s)

See website


Country/Nationality: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information



CSJR Postgraduate Student Bursary - Single Award

Candidate Assessment:
- Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by a Selection Panel. The Centre reserves the right not to make an award in the event that no suitable application is received.- On evidence that the primary focus of the candidate's study is in Japanese Religions / Japanese Buddhism and their ability to use sources in Japanese.- The assessment of your application will be based on the information in your application for admission. Selectors will be looking at academic references, degree results, statement, CV, research proposal (MPhil/PhD applications only) and other relevant information.Scholarship Application Deadline
- Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK time) on 1 June 2016.- Applicants must ALSO submit a complete application to their programme well in advance and then submit an application for the scholarship. Please note that complete applications for admission can take 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year. You should be prepared to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods. - Late or incomplete scholarship applications will not be considered.

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Applicants must possess an outstanding academic record
- Taught Masters (MA) applicants must focus on Japanese Religions / Japanese Buddhism. Evidence of this should be included in the statement of their admission application.
- Taught Masters (MA) and PhD applicants should give evidence in the statement of their admission application of their ability to use sources in Japanese.
- Open to UK/EU and OVERSEAS candidates.
- Applicants must meet the English language condition of their offer of admission to study at SOAS as soon as possible but no later than 30 June 2016.

Application Procedure

You must apply for this scholarship via the on-line scholarship application form.

Further Information



SOAS Master's Scholarships - Faculty of Arts & Humanities - 5 Awards

There are five SOAS Master's scholarships available in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities (Department of Anthropology and Sociology - 1 scholarship, History - 1 scholarship, History of Arts&Archaeology/Music & Media - 2 scholarships, Religions and Philosophies - 1 scholarship). Each scholarship is valued at £16,765 in total. Fees will be deducted from this amount and the remainder will be used toward maintenance. Candidate Assessment
- Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by an Advisory Panel consisting of at least three academic members of the Faculty. - The assessment of your application will be based on the information in your scholarship application. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statements and other relevant information.Scholarship Application Deadline
- Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK local time) on 24 February 2016.- In order to be considered for this scholarship, you must ALSO submit a complete online application to the degree programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for the scholarship. Applicants applying for scholarships must also submit an application for admission well in advance. Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year. You should prepare to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods. - Late or incomplete applications will not be considered

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Applicants must possess or expect to be awarded a First Class Honours Degree or equivalent. Students with a non-UK degree to be adjudged in the top rank by their referees and transcript.
- This scholarship is open to UK/EU applicants only.
- Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue one of the eligible full-time masters programmes at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline.
- The scholarship cannot be held along with any other major scholarship or studentship.

Application Procedure

You must apply for this scholarship via this on-line scholarship application form.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Normally, minimum upper second class Honours degree from a UK university, or an overseas qualification or equivalent standard. Applicants with qualifications obtained at private or religious institutions should enquire about the School’s position on such qualifications.

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