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Degree Awarding Powers

Disclosure date: 6 June 2012

Reference: FOI2012/034

Request

1. Please could you inform me what consultations have taken place involving the Student Union on [degree awarding powers]? Please provide me minutes of all meetings between the management of SOAS and Student Union or student representatives? If focus groups were setup, please provide me minutes of these meetings- if any were held?

2. [Will] the awarding of degrees in its own name (SOAS) mean that students will no longer receive degrees on behalf of the University of London. If this is the case, when is this likely to come into effect on certificates given at graduation?

3. I would like full disclosures of minuted discussions between the Director and the Management or colleagues within the School on the alleged reports of the School planning to change their official tree logo which represents and symbolise SOAS as an institution? Please could you confirm whether any discussions have taken place to this effect and if so please disclose minutes.

4. I would like a disclosure of how many complaints or formal grievances have been lodged against the School on grounds of race and religion and how many, if any, have been upheld? This includes staff and students alike in the last 6 years between the period 2006 to present?

5. Finally, on a point of public transparency, I would like to know why the SOAS does not disclose all minutes of governance meetings throughout the School on its websites. I have checked, the vast majority of departmental or management or executive committee meeting minutes are not up to date or some have not had a meeting in a year or two. Please can you confirm who is responsible for this and why that this has not been updated?

Response

1. In common with a number of other constituent colleges of the University of London, SOAS has been granted the power to award its own degrees by the UK's Privy Council, an historic interdepartmental office of government ministers appointed by the Queen.

Degree Awarding Powers are granted on the advice of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Government body charged with monitoring standards in higher education in the UK. Following a rigorous assessment process, SOAS was granted the power to award its own degrees in August 2011, a decision which recognises not only the quality of our teaching but also our ability to set and maintain academic standards.

The Governing Body of SOAS took the decision that the School should exercise its degree awarding powers. This resolution was made after taking into account the views of students and staff through relevant mechanisms.

There are no minutes of the kind described, but as indicated above, this was discussed at the School’s Governing Body, which is attended by Student Union representatives. Open minutes of Governing Body discussing this issue are available on the website, for example in the minutes at http://www.soas.ac.uk/admin/governance/govbody/file73556.pdf.

2. To date, all SOAS graduates have received University of London degrees.  Those registered from September 2013 will benefit from having SOAS, University of London awards, which will give graduates greater recognition around the world.

Other University of London colleges that have also been granted the power to award their own degrees include the London School of Economics, University College London and King's College London.

3. There are no minutes held of discussions between the Director and colleagues within the School on this matter.

4. Over the period from 2006 to present, there have been three formal complaints made on grounds of racism. Only one was upheld. There have been no formal complaints on grounds of religion.

5. The School is committed to being transparent and accountable, and makes a great deal of information available through its website. The School’s policy on publishing committee minutes is published on the website at http://www.soas.ac.uk/infocomp/foi/committees/#what%20to%20publish. Committee Secretaries are responsible for submitting copies of minutes to the School’s Directorate for publication. You are quite right that the publication of many committees’ minutes appear to be behind schedule, and I thank you for drawing this to my attention. I should also make clear that if anyone wishes to see copies of minutes that are not published on the School website, they are welcome to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act.