SOAS vision and strategy

Strategic plan

SOAS now has a Strategic Plan in place as the basis for the renewal and revitalisation of the School, and to position SOAS to play a leading role in reimagining higher education globally.

The 5-year SOAS Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in July 2021 and commits SOAS to both student responsiveness and research intensity.

Reimagining the role and purpose of SOAS

The student journey is at the heart of the Strategic Plan, as our students and our thriving alumni community represent a vital part of SOAS’s contribution to and engagement with the global community.

It articulates a vision for a new model of international partnerships which is responsive to the transnational character of our global challenges. 

It commits SOAS to ensuring a socially just institutional community in which everyone experiences belonging and is treated with respect.


PDF document, 2.87MB

Supporting strategies

Supporting plans setting out our Education Strategy and our Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy are being developed and will be added here when finalised.

SOAS has also refreshed its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for 2021 to 2025.

2023–2028 strategy

2016–2020 strategies

Decolonising strategy

As agreed by Academic Board in November 2017, SOAS will continue to address the need for decolonisation by:

  • Supporting further recognition and debate about the wide, complex and varied impacts of colonialism, imperialism and racism in shaping our university.
  • Embedding within our policies and practices a deeper understanding that these impacts produce and reproduce injustices and inequalities within education.
  • A stronger commitment to actively make redress for such impacts through ongoing collective dialogue within the university and through our public obligations,
  • The provision of institution-level support to embed this understanding in SOAS’s contribution as a public university in the service of the wider world.

This entails a commitment to:

  • A curriculum review process that addresses the preceding bullet points, challenges Eurocentrism and develops a toolkit to support further critical, nuanced and ongoing review of our teaching.
  • Student systems and pedagogy that seek to redress access, engagement and attainment gaps caused by structural inequalities at all levels of study.
  • Human Resources policies which seek to redress pay, workload, status and career path differentials for groups of staff subject to structural inequalities.
  • A research agenda which enables us to take forward a range of questions related to decolonisation.
  • Practices of reflective intellectual collaboration with institutions and researchers from the Global South as co-producers of knowledge.
  • Forms of public engagement within London, the UK and the world which support ongoing conversations about the past, present and future significance of imperialism and colonialism.

Language strategy

Languages are central to SOAS, and have been subject to considerable discussion and work over the last few years.

For some, languages are the bedrock of SOAS’s academic mission, and central to our activities, while for others, they have not kept pace with changes internal to SOAS and in the external environment, and now threaten to hold the institution back.

The current strategy acknowledges the complex situation and perceptions of languages within SOAS, and emphasises both our strength in languages, as well as the need to change and address key problems – such as financial sustainability, pedagogic innovation and student success – with some urgency.

Strategic priorities

The SOAS Vision and Strategy 2016-2020 makes extensive reference to languages. It notes that SOAS is a ‘small research-led university with excellent teaching and language and area studies specialisms in Asia, Africa and the Middle East’, and a global university focussing on ‘teaching and researching across a range of social science and humanities subjects, rooted in the culture and languages of the regions in which we specialise’.

Our language scholarship enables SOAS staff and students to listen, speak, read and write in the languages in which key local, regional, and global debates take place, and to meet speakers of African, Asian and Middle Eastern languages on their own linguistic terms.

Through our languages, we enable our staff and students to understand and interpret both local and global contexts, to mediate between them, and to critically challenge one in terms of the other. We draw on this strength in our research and our teaching, and use it to change and make an impact locally and globally.

Our overall strategic aim is to embed language in the student experience and academic mission of the School and to provide an excellent learning experience for diverse learner groups. Through this, our language scholarship supports the School’s distinctiveness, underpins engagement with our regions, and provides students with key interpersonal and life skills.

Our core values underpinning language scholarship and learning are 1) a diverse portfolio of African, Asian and Middle Eastern languages, 2) language study as part of degree study, 3) supporting diverse learners and audiences, and 4) excellence.

In order to achieve our strategic aims we will have to take urgent action in a number of areas, where we are currently facing challenges and are not working on the level of excellence we aim for. Our main challenges are financial sustainability, student success and pedagogical innovation, and they will be addressed by four strands of activity: Two strands focussing on different language groups (strategically important and vulnerable languages, and high recruiting languages), one strand focussing on the Language Centre, and one overarching strand for pedagogical innovation.

Languages Strategy 2018 (PDF)

PDF document, 462.26KB