School of African and Oriental Studies


The unique School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) is the only higher education institution in Europe that specialises in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. A constituent of the University of London, it combines language scholarship, disciplinary expertise and regional focus and has the largest concentration in Europe of academic staff concerned with those regions of the world.

Founded in 1916, SOAS is ranked within the top 25 universities in the United Kingdom by The Guardian University Guide 2018. It is located in the heart of Bloomsbury in central London, and is rated seventh in the world for Development Studies by the 2017 QS World University Rankings. It is organised into faculties of humanities, languages and social sciences and is home to the SOAS School of Law.

Close to Russell Square and its tube station, its campus includes College Buildings (the Philips Building and the Old Building), Brunei Gallery, Faber Building (23–24 Russell Square), 21–22 Russell Square and the northern Block of Senate House.

It was founded in 1916 at 2 Finsbury Circus, London, the then premises of the London Institution. The school received its Royal Charter later that year and admitted its first students in early 1917. The school was formally inaugurated in February 1917 by King George V.

SOAS was founded by the British state to strengthen Britain’s political, commercial and military presence in Asia and Africa, with a mission 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 and colonial officials. Africa was added to the school’s name in 1938. Today, SOAS offers around 350 undergraduate Bachelor’s degree combinations, more than 100 one-year Master’s degrees and PhD programmes in nearly every department. The undergraduate degree combinations are available in Social Sciences, Arts, Humanities and Languages, all with a distinctive regional focus and global relevance.

If you've been made an offer for a place at the university then have a look at some of our centrally located London student accommodation below:

London Accommodation

SOAS scholars concern themselves with pressing issues such as democracy, development, human rights, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion and social change and 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.

These include Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Member of the Burmese Parliament, Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, 4th Vice President of the Maldives, and Bülent Ecevit, former Prime Minister of Turkey – quite the prestigious line-up!

SOAS has more than 5,000 students from 133 countries on campus, and just over half of them are from outside the UK. In addition, about 3,600 students around the world are taking an online and distance learning programme with the school.

The school is proud to offer courses in a 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.