The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is a college of the University of London and the only Higher Education institution in the UK specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. The institution was founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies at 2 Finsbury Circus, London, England, the then premises of the London Institution. The School received its Royal Charter on 5 June 1916.

In 2008, SOAS jumped 15 places up to ninth best university nationwide in The Good University Guide, and rated fourth in London.

SOAS is a remarkable institution. Uniquely combining language scholarship, disciplinary expertise and regional focus, it has the largest concentration in Europe of academic staff concerned with Africa, Asia and the Middle East.


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On the one hand, this means that SOAS remains a guardian of specialised knowledge in languages and periods and regions not available anywhere else in the UK. On the other hand, it means that SOAS scholars grapple with pressing issues – democracy, development, human rights, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, social change – confronting two-thirds of humankind.

This makes SOAS synonymous with intellectual enquiry and achievement. It is a global academic base and a crucial resource for London. We live in a world of shrinking borders and of economic and technological simultaneity. Yet it is also a world in which difference and regionalism present themselves acutely. It is a world that SOAS is distinctively positioned to analyse, understand and explain.

Academic focus on the languages, cultures and societies of Africa, Asia and the Middle East makes SOAS an indispensable interpreter in a complex world.


  • SOAS has more than 4,700 students from 140+ countries, and 45% of them are from outside the UK
  • Just over half students are studying for undergraduate degrees, and 26% of them are aged 21 or over at the start of their course
  • More than 350 degree combinations are available in social sciences, arts, humanities and languages, all with a distinctive regional focus

SOAS is currently split into two campuses within 20 minutes walk of each other. The Russell Square campus is located in Bloomsbury, an area at the corner of the West End known to many tourists for its shops, theaters and nightlife. The main campus was moved there in 1938, and has much expanded since then. The closest Underground station is Russell Square tube station.

The Vernon Square campus in Islington, opened in 2001, is close to Kings Cross Station and only a few hundred yards from Dinwiddy House and Paul Robeson House, exclusive to SOAS students and owned by Sanctuary Management Student Housing.

The school also houses the Brunei Gallery, built as a result of an endowment from the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, and inaugurated by the Princess Royal, as Chancellor of the University of London,
SOAS is world famous as a “leading centre for the study of a highly diverse range of subjects concerned with Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”


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