Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in Religions and Philosophies


Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

The SOAS Religions and Philosophies Department offers a vibrant, stimulating, and interdisciplinary research environment. We provide individual research supervision in a wide variety of religious traditions and comparative and interdisciplinary topics. Supervisors are experts in their fields and thoroughly familiar with the religions, cultures, languages, and geographical areas they specialise in.

In addition to individual supervision the Department offers research training at various levels: an obligatory research writing workshop which prepares year 1 MPhil students for their upgrade to the PhD level; a weekly seminar for PhD students in years 2 and 3 to discuss work in progress and receive feedback before submitting their thesis; a departmental research seminar in which both staff and students present papers on their research projects and discuss them in an interdisciplinary setting. Students also have the opportunity to attend seminars, lectures, and conferences offered by the various specialist Centres relating to their particular fields. These centres run regular evening lecture series, workshops, and conferences which host visiting speakers from other universities in Britain, Europe, and globally.

As you think about commencing your PhD with us, we invite you to contact a potential supervisor in your area of interest, ideally with the first draft of your project proposal. This member of staff will then advise you on your project and on any questions you might have before making your application.


A SOAS PhD degree has to be completed within a maximum of four years. A draft of the thesis must be ready at the end of year 3; during year 4 the student is on continuation status, also referred to as an 'extension of writing up'; the completed thesis must be submitted until September 15 of year 4 of registration.

All first year research students are registered for MPhil status. The outcome of a mini-viva at the end of term 3 conducted by the three members of the student’s supervisory committee determines whether they will be (a) upgraded to PhD candidate status, (b) continue as MPhil candidates, (c) need to revise his or her proposal, or (d) should terminate registration.

In the first year, students develop their specific research projects and plans in consultation with the three members of their supervisory committee. Individual supervisions, the obligatory departmental research writing workshop, and generic core writing courses help students prepare their upgrade submission materials which have to be submitted by the submission deadline in May.

Year-by-Year Requirements for Full-time MPhil and PhD Research Students

Year One

During Year One, the student refines the research proposal and decides in conjunction with his/her Supervisory Committee whether the research project should be directed towards the goal of an MPhil or a PhD degree. Students who wish to work towards the PhD must pass the process of upgrading registration from MPhil to PhD candidacy. They must provide the following to the Supervisory Committee by the May deadline (exact date t.b.c. by SOAS Registry):

  1. Year 1-3/4: Minutes of supervisory meetings have to be recorded by the student on the Moodle logbook throughout.
  2. Term 1-2: Evidence of obligatory attendance of MPhil/PhD Research Workshop (SRRESWRIT_N1/01).
  3. In Term 2: Pre-circulation and brief oral presentation of a draft chapter of the upgrading submission (10,000 words) for discussion in the MPhil/PhD Research Workshop
  4. Upgrading submission of 20,000 words in May to the three supervisors and the research tutor via PDF in an e-mail attachment:
    1. Introduction (including Literature Review, Sources & Methodology, Chapter Outline, Research Plan & Time Schedule, Draft Bibliography).
    2. draft core chapter.
    3. statement on research ethics in case of fieldwork.
  5. The procedure of the upgrade viva at SoR is as follows:
    1. The three supervisors write individual reports on the submitted documents and circulate them among themselves before the upgrade viva.
    2. The 1 hour long 'mini viva' is held with the candidate and his/her three supervisors in May/June.
    3. The supervisory committee comes to a collective judgement and records and signs the upgrade form accordingly (and ethics review form if 'yes' is ticked by the candidate in the upgrade form).
    4. The decision will be communicated to the candidate orally immediately after the viva.
    5. The principal supervisor passes a written summary of the three individual reports, containing valuable feedback, to the candidate.

Year Two - Fieldwork or Data Collection

After a successful upgrade to MPhil/PhD status, students can go abroad to do fieldwork or do research in local libraries. During the second year student work on their source material, whether it consists of texts, interviews, surveys, or visual, etc., sources.

  1. Regular reports must be submitted to the supervisor, via email or in person. The other members of the research committee need to be kept informed as well.
  2. A second core chapter will normally be completed.

Year Three – Completion of Full Draft

During the third year of their PhD students are expected to write a draft of their thesis. This draft must be ready at the end of the year to proceed to continuation status in year 4.

  1. Required presentation at the PhD/MPhil Research Seminar.
  2. Application for continuation status requires the submission of a draft of the thesis at the end of year 3 together with the continuation approval form (not later than 31 August).
  3. All three members of the supervisory committee read the draft and provide written feedback. All committee members sign the Extension of Writing-Up Form (download doc | pdf) if the Committee is satisfied that the draft thesis can be developed into a thesis of a quality worthy for submission for examination in the subsequent academic year. The final date for submission is 15 September.

The student will then be allowed to register on Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) Status in Year 4 at reduced fees during year 4, assuming 4 years are needed to complete the thesis.

Teaching experience may be available in Year Two or Three, depending on Department needs.

Year Four – Completion and Submission of Thesis

The thesis must be completed and submitted by the end of year 4 not later than 15 September.

At the viva (thesis examination), the examiners aim to confirm:

  1. that they have satisfied themselves that the thesis is genuinely the work of the candidate;
  2. that the thesis forms a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and affords evidence of originality by:
    1. the discovery of new facts; and/or
    2. the exercise of independent critical power
  3. that the thesis is satisfactory as regards literary presentation;
  4. that the thesis is of a standard to merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form.

Important notice

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

Research Admissions and Applications

We welcome applications from qualified students holding a good Master’s-level degree (or overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject for research degrees at SOAS. Applications should be submitted online.

It is important to apply well before the start of the academic year in which you wish to enrol to allow us time to process your application. If you are applying for scholarships, earlier deadlines may apply.

The SOAS PhD programme is competitive and applicants should have a track record of high academic achievement and a viable proposal which will contribute to the research interests of the Department. Please note: we discourage purely speculative applications. Applications for interdisciplinary research are welcome, but only one application to one Department may be submitted.

Unconditional English Language Entry Requirements

Applicants that require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must provide a UKVI IELTS Academic certificate from a UKVI approved test centre.

International applicants requiring a Tier-4 Visa to study in the UK

Test Unconditional entry Unconditional entry with in-sessional support
IELTS (Academic) 7.0 overall or higher, with 7.0 in sub-scores. 7.0 overall or higher, with at least 6.5 in sub-scores

EEA and EU applicants

Test Unconditional entry Unconditional entry with in-sessional support
IELTS (Academic) 7.0 overall or higher, with 7.0 in each sub-score. 7.0 overall or higher, with at least 6.5 in sub-scores.
TOEFL IBT 105 overall or higher, with a minimum of 25 in sub-scores. 105 overall with a minimum of 22 in sub-scores.
100 overall with a minimum of 25 in writing and 22 in other sub-scores.
Pearson Test of English (Academic) 75 overall or higher, with a minimum of 70 in sub-scores. 70 overall or higher, with a minimum of 65 in sub-scores.
Last updated Sep 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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