sina86
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Hey guys.

I have applied for a taught masters degree in Climate Policy at SOAS, and I really need help deciding if I should go! Please give me all your info on this uni. as I don't relly know that much about it.

- How good is its international reputation compared to unis like UCL or LSE?
- Do employers usually know about it outside the UK?
- Is it really that hippie? That makes it seem a bit un-serious to me, any thoughts on this?
- What are the facilities like? Library, reading rooms etc.

I appreciate all the feedback I can get, so please don't hesitate to write as I am really unsure about this!

Thank you so much in advance for your help!

Sina
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Picaa
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(Original post by sina86)
Hey guys.

I have applied for a taught masters degree in Climate Policy at SOAS, and I really need help deciding if I should go! Please give me all your info on this uni. as I don't relly know that much about it.

- How good is its international reputation compared to unis like UCL or LSE?
- Do employers usually know about it outside the UK?
- Is it really that hippie? That makes it seem a bit un-serious to me, any thoughts on this?
- What are the facilities like? Library, reading rooms etc.

I appreciate all the feedback I can get, so please don't hesitate to write as I am really unsure about this!

Thank you so much in advance for your help!

Sina
SOAS has a good reputation but it's getting harder and harder to ignore that it's dropping down the league tables like a stone, consistently since 2005. It has gone from a university near the top of the tables to the middle, and it might sink a lot further. Everyone says league tables don't matter. You can form your own opinion on that.
Also the number of students has doubled since then as well, and resources are strained. SOAS used to be famous for small class sizes but you will find enormous class sizes now for some language modules, and that trend is spreading to other classes as well.

Just some things to bear in mind. I'm glad I chose SOAS when I did but these days I would take a long hard look and shoot for UCL in the first instance.
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Bambirina
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(Original post by Picaa)
SOAS has a good reputation but it's getting harder and harder to ignore that it's dropping down the league tables like a stone, consistently since 2005. It has gone from a university near the top of the tables to the middle, and it might sink a lot further. Everyone says league tables don't matter. You can form your own opinion on that.
Also the number of students has doubled since then as well, and resources are strained. SOAS used to be famous for small class sizes but you will find enormous class sizes now for some language modules, and that trend is spreading to other classes as well.

Just some things to bear in mind. I'm glad I chose SOAS when I did but these days I would take a long hard look and shoot for UCL in the first instance.
Thank you for these information, that's good to know !

Would you say SOAS is worth it though ?
I'd like to apply for Politics and Japanese and for International Management Japan, and take a Chinese course at the language centre (I know I'd be pretty busy, but I've been studying Chinese for 3 years at school and I'm going to China for my gap year). SOAS seems the best place for East Asian languages and business, and it also seems good for Politics.
At the moment I'm thinking of only applying to SOAS, but do you think I should also consider Leeds and Manchester ?
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Picaa
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(Original post by Bambirina)
Thank you for these information, that's good to know !

Would you say SOAS is worth it though ?
I'd like to apply for Politics and Japanese and for International Management Japan, and take a Chinese course at the language centre (I know I'd be pretty busy, but I've been studying Chinese for 3 years at school and I'm going to China for my gap year). SOAS seems the best place for East Asian languages and business, and it also seems good for Politics.
At the moment I'm thinking of only applying to SOAS, but do you think I should also consider Leeds and Manchester ?
I can't answer that for you but I can give you some information.

In 2004, SOAS was ranked number 44 in world rankings in the THES (the most reliable league table).
In 2012, SOAS doesn't even seem to appear in the top 400, unless I'm missing something (you can check here: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.u...2/top-400.html)

In 2007 received a black mark:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.u...sectioncode=26
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sina86
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Wow picaa, Thank you for this. I did not know about this, but this is very useful. When did you study there and what were the fascilities like? Have you heard that the students are more unhappy with it now as well?

Thanks again for your response.
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Picaa
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(Original post by Yazooo)
That's a huge drop and I've noticed SOAS decreasing on league table rankings too, why do you think this is? To me it seems like ever since they had their new principal, its gone downhill... I don't know.

Would you recommend studying at SOAS or Queen Mary for Law?
SOAS has always been better than QMUL for law and it's still marginally better but that will change, and I'll show why in my next post. QMUL's ranking will hold in the future but SOAS's will fall.

Remember guys, SOAS can teach you Japanese. There's no doubt about it. But when choosing a university you should choose one that can not only meet your needs but is at least respected as a good university in the outside world. For obvious reasons.
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cbuchwa1
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I'm not from the UK, so forgive me if I'm missing something obvious, but how do you know which rankings to use? This one - http://www.thecompleteuniversityguid...ables/rankings - says SOAS was 18th in 2012 and is dropping to 30 in 2013. Granted, that's not a great sign, but that's not as bad as dropping out of the top 400.

Edited to say: Oops! The one I linked to is just for the UK; yours is for the world. That's a pretty awful ranking for SOAS.
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Picaa
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OK to sum up what I've been saying, I haven't said don't choose SOAS, but I've said SOAS has been falling down the league tables. If you want good and reliable reasons for why that is, may I suggest talking to one of the older or recently retired academics.

In 2004: number 44 in the world.
In 2012: not even in top 400.

In between 2004 and 2012 was 2008. In 2008 SOAS was number 253. Check this article:

http://www.soas.ac.uk/news/newsitem46930.html

SOAS basically says the reason for the fall at that stage is because SOAS research is published in journals that are too obscure and unheard-of for the measuring system used by QS to pick up. Is this a strong reason? They say they publish in no-name non-peer review journals and this is the reason the rank had fallen from 44 to 253.

Two problems with this argument:

1) SOAS research used to be published everywhere in well-known peer-reviewed journals but now much of it isn't.
2) The criteria for calculating league table position isn't based on research alone but other things.

The fact is, SOAS doubled in size over 8 years. This means it took twice as many students. The reason for this is that it increases income. However in the old days, and one or two SOAS professors may still do this, it was a case of walking into a professor's office and discussing anything you needed help with, at any time. In general you can't do that at SOAS now. It's like a factory now and most tutors are available for a regular drop-in session for about 1 or maximum 2 hours one day in the week. And there are so many students the tutor may not even remember your name. It's a massive change in culture and it reduces completion rates of courses (i.e. there is a high dropout rate) and student satisfaction. UCL, Kings, LSE, etc. never changed their formula, only SOAS did. At those places there is still a close interaction between student and tutor.
Both completion rates and student satisfaction affect league table scores. Also the increase in students means that SOAS takes people with lower grades than before. SOAS may ask for 3 A* but accept people with much lower grades to fill the seats. The grades of entrants also affects league table score. Also to increase revenue SOAS has doubled the number of courses it offers, and not in the realm of language teaching or difficult stuff but generalist and 'inventive' courses.... In other words the business model of SOAS has changed from that of Britain's best universities to the tricks (such as inventing new courses and ditching the 'hard' ones) and rebrandings used by the worst (the ex-polys).

Also, needless to say, league tables mattered to everyone when SOAS was at the top, but now SOAS isn't even a blip on the EEG everyone says league tables don't matter..
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Picaa
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(Original post by cbuchwa1)
I'm not from the UK, so forgive me if I'm missing something obvious, but how do you know which rankings to use? This one - http://www.thecompleteuniversityguid...ables/rankings - says SOAS was 18th in 2012 and is dropping to 30 in 2013. [/I]
That's right. That league table puts SOAS 2013 in the same league as the lower redbricks and plate-glass universities in the UK. It's only a few points but still a big change from when SOAS was rated among the best.
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Picaa
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(Original post by Yazooo)
I was reading the SOAS 2013 prospectus and it said that 85% of SOAS' Law department RAE submissions were rated as "world leading" - that's pretty good isn't it? :erm: Its hard to choose because meanwhile, QM are rising up the league tables. They sent me an email saying they want to be a top 10 uni by 2015 (which is by the time I graduate I guess); I don't know if that'll come true or not, but they have that goal.
Yes all universities invest a lot in getting the prospectus right. Marketing is a real, professional skill. In every SOAS prospectus every year female upper thighs are pictured prominently, for example. Mere coincidence? Of course not. Regarding the Research Assessment Exercise, there are a million ways to spin that. Let me point it out like this:

1) A university's ranking doesn't depend on one department being good;
2) A university department isn't assessed on its research output alone but at least 5 other factors;
3) People look at the whole university's reputation not the department's reputation.

They can say they want to be a top 10 uni by 2015 and as I'm a SOAS graduate I'd be happy if that was the case. But in reality that's just a sales puff. They're not going to be a top 10 uni, OK... It won't give me any pleasure to bump this thread in 2015 and point out SOAS is floundering as never before. But they can be a top 20 uni, because SOAS always was (before about 2005). Whether they will be back on track again as a top 20 uni, nobody can predict. Who knows? Anything's possible and pigs may fly. I guess they won't be because that would be against the current trend.

This is quite alarming (from SOAS's site - current):

"SOAS Clearing and Adjustment 2012

SOAS will open for Clearing and Adjustment at 9am on Thursday, 16th August 2012. Please call us on +44 (0)20 7898 4444 to make an application or for further details.
The following single subject programmes are available in clearing:

BA African Language and Culture
BA African Studies
BA Arabic
BA Arabic and Islamic Studies
BA Chinese (Modern and Classical)
BA Chinese Studies
BSc Development Economics
BSc Economics
BA Hebrew and Israeli Studies
BA History
BA History of Art
BA History of Art/Archaeology
BSc International Management (China)
BSc International Management (China) (including a year abroad)
BSc International Management (Japan and Korea)
BSc International Management (Japan with Year Abroad)
BSc International Management (Middle East and North Africa with Year Abroad)
BSc International Management (Middle East and North Africa)
BA Islamic Studies
BA Japanese
BA Japanese Studies
BA Korean
BA Linguistics
BA Middle Eastern Studies
BA Music
BA Persian
BA Politics
BA Social Anthropology
BA South Asian Studies
BA South Asian Studies (Including Year Abroad)
BA South Asian Studies and International Management
BA South Asian Studies and International Management (With year abroad)
BA South East Asian Studies (including a year abroad)
BA South East Asian Studies and International Management
BA South-East Asian Studies
BA Study of Religions
BA Turkish
The following programmes are available as part of joint degrees. We will be able to advise you of possible combinations.
Please note that unless a programme is listed below, then it is not available to be combined as part of a joint degree.

BA African Studies
BA Arabic
BA Burmese
BA Chinese (Modern and Classical)
BA Development Studies
BA Economics
BA Georgian (available as a minor only)
BA Hebrew
BA History
BA History of Art/Archaeology
BA Indonesian
BA Japanese Studies
BA Japanese
BA Korean
BA Linguistics
BA Middle Eastern Studies
BA Music
BA Persian
BA Politics
BA Social Anthropology
BA South Asian Studies
BA South Asian Studies (including year abroad)
BA South-East Asian Studies
BA Study of Religions
BA Swahili
BA Thai
BA Tibetan
BA Tibetan (including year abroad)
BA Turkish
BA Vietnamese"

Note: UCL and LSE have no clearing spaces at all right now.
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cbuchwa1
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Sorry -- what is clearing?
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Picaa
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(Original post by cbuchwa1)
Sorry -- what is clearing?
When a university hasn't been able to fill its places it still needs students to fill the seats and clear its costs. So it looks for those students who didn't make the grade to get into the course and uni of their choice, and encourages them to try for one of these courses. For example, say BCC at A-level is normally required for entry onto SOAS's BA Turkish, but SOAS didn't get enough applicants for that course or those that did apply didn't meet their offer of BCC. This is a problem because bills have to be paid. SOAS therefore opens up an unofficial application process just before the course is due to start. This process is called 'clearing'.

This hits league tables badly. First, the grades of entrants is a scored category so SOAS loses lots of points when so many courses are up for grabs in clearing and are taken up by people who didn't get such good grades. Second, the completion rate of courses is reduced a bit because the students aren't as good. Completion rate is also a factor for league tables. Third, the more indirect factors such as social (background of students), university experience, graduate employability, ratio of applicants to places, etc. all take a knock. On the whole it's bad for the league tables and the impact lasts for years. As a side note, that massive list of courses in clearing today makes it an impossible joke for SOAS to be a 'top 10 UK uni by 2015'.
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sallylo
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(Original post by Picaa)
When a university hasn't been able to fill its places it still needs students to fill the seats and clear its costs. So it looks for those students who didn't make the grade to get into the course and uni of their choice, and encourages them to try for one of these courses. For example, say BCC at A-level is normally required for entry onto SOAS's BA Turkish, but SOAS didn't get enough applicants for that course or those that did apply didn't meet their offer of BCC. This is a problem because bills have to be paid. SOAS therefore opens up an unofficial application process just before the course is due to start. This process is called 'clearing'.

This hits league tables badly. First, the grades of entrants is a scored category so SOAS loses lots of points when so many courses are up for grabs in clearing and are taken up by people who didn't get such good grades. Second, the completion rate of courses is reduced a bit because the students aren't as good. Completion rate is also a factor for league tables. Third, the more indirect factors such as social (background of students), university experience, graduate employability, ratio of applicants to places, etc. all take a knock. On the whole it's bad for the league tables and the impact lasts for years. As a side note, that massive list of courses in clearing today makes it an impossible joke for SOAS to be a 'top 10 UK uni by 2015'.
Bare in mind that the courses in clearing above are mainly language courses and that although SOAS is a specialist in languages, the number of students taking languages are decreased over the years. This may be one of the main reasons.

"Second, the completion rate of courses is reduced a bit because the students aren't as good. Completion rate is also a factor for league tables." Students may not be working hard enough, the effort of the individual is key too. For example, I didn't get all As in GCSE but in A level I worked my butt off and got A*AA in A level. Doesn't matter how good the teachers are or how good the university is, if the individual can't be bothered then no one is going to complete the course. This is also key too.
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Picaa
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(Original post by sallylo)
Bare in mind that the courses in clearing above are mainly language courses and that although SOAS is a specialist in languages, the number of students taking languages are decreased over the years. This may be one of the main reasons.

"Second, the completion rate of courses is reduced a bit because the students aren't as good. Completion rate is also a factor for league tables." Students may not be working hard enough, the effort of the individual is key too. For example, I didn't get all As in GCSE but in A level I worked my butt off and got A*AA in A level. Doesn't matter how good the teachers are or how good the university is, if the individual can't be bothered then no one is going to complete the course. This is also key too.
I agree with you. Commitment is the only thing that will get you through some courses at SOAS. But that's a different matter altogether. We can set up a research group to find out why less people are taking languages, or find all kinds of legitimate excuses why suddenly SOAS is taking a dive to the bottom. It's not my problem but I would highlight the danger in trying to go head to head against the very idea of the league tables.
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ifuraguaggg
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I was quite shocked by the clearing thing too, but when I looked at the listings on telegraph there was a similar situation with most London unis, isn't a big part of this down to new tuition fees?
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Picaa
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(Original post by Yazooo)
Oh no, I think you misread what I wrote. I said QUEEN MARY aimed to be a top ten university, not SOAS Even so, thanks for the honest input. It has put me off a little bit.... I'm still in limbo. What would you pick if you were in my position? Queen Mary or SOAS?
Hehehe I'm not a careers adviser dude, just a guy on a discussion forum. If I wanted do a foreign language as well as my normal subject, then SOAS. But that's not because of rep but only because of the language. In pure rep terms, QMUL will do better than SOAS in the future, unfortunately.
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Picaa
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(Original post by ifuraguaggg)
I was quite shocked by the clearing thing too, but when I looked at the listings on telegraph there was a similar situation with most London unis, isn't a big part of this down to new tuition fees?
Possibly, but the other colleges in the University of London don't seem to be suffering like this despite also charging high fees. No clearing places at all for UCL and LSE. Haven't checked Kings or anywhere else.

Remember that the ex-polys based geographically in London are the pits. It's not appropriate to compare them with SOAS.
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ifuraguaggg
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(Original post by Picaa)
Possibly, but the other colleges in the University of London don't seem to be suffering like this despite also charging high fees. No clearing places at all for UCL and LSE. Haven't checked Kings or anywhere else.

Remember that the ex-polys based geographically in London are the pits. It's not appropriate to compare them with SOAS.

I was checking the listings back on results day, don't know if changed since then, but there was definitely A LOT of courses in clearing for kcl, can't remember which other ones I looked at. It was also vaguely in news stories that a lot more courses were in clearing this year I remember. This definitely hasn't ever happened before for these kinds of unis.

I also have an inkling that academic, and especially specialist courses, that don't have an obvious careers application are a lot less attractive when you will come out with a 50k debt, so places like SOAS are likely to be disproportionately affected by the changes.
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Picaa
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(Original post by ifuraguaggg)
I was checking the listings back on results day, don't know if changed since then, but there was definitely A LOT of courses in clearing for kcl, can't remember which other ones I looked at. It was also vaguely in news stories that a lot more courses were in clearing this year I remember. This definitely hasn't ever happened before for these kinds of unis.
For KCL that's a surprise. I checked QMUL just now and they have 162 in clearing, including lots of science degrees. It could be that some of these universities have seriously misjudged the (economic) mood.
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cbuchwa1
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(Original post by Picaa)
When a university hasn't been able to fill its places it still needs students to fill the seats and clear its costs. So it looks for those students who didn't make the grade to get into the course and uni of their choice, and encourages them to try for one of these courses. For example, say BCC at A-level is normally required for entry onto SOAS's BA Turkish, but SOAS didn't get enough applicants for that course or those that did apply didn't meet their offer of BCC. This is a problem because bills have to be paid. SOAS therefore opens up an unofficial application process just before the course is due to start. This process is called 'clearing'.

This hits league tables badly. First, the grades of entrants is a scored category so SOAS loses lots of points when so many courses are up for grabs in clearing and are taken up by people who didn't get such good grades. Second, the completion rate of courses is reduced a bit because the students aren't as good. Completion rate is also a factor for league tables. Third, the more indirect factors such as social (background of students), university experience, graduate employability, ratio of applicants to places, etc. all take a knock. On the whole it's bad for the league tables and the impact lasts for years. As a side note, that massive list of courses in clearing today makes it an impossible joke for SOAS to be a 'top 10 UK uni by 2015'.

Thanks for explaining this -- I don't know if we have this in the US, so I wasn't fully understanding this. Appreciate it!
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