SOAS University of London

About SOAS

History of SOAS, University of London

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History of SOAS, part of the 2013 SOAS Alumni and Friends Weekend


The School was founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies. It took its present title in 1938, by which time it had also established itself as a centre for African Studies. It moved to its present site in 1941.

The Scarbrough Report of 1946 recommended that the whole field of Asian and African studies should be developed in London in contrast to a restricted range of programmes in other universities, and there was a considerable expansion of the School’s activities. In addition, after the Hayter Report of 1961, increased attention was given to the development of the social sciences.

Its expanded library, designed by the architect Sir Denys Lasdun, was opened in 1973. This national resource houses more than 1.5 million items.

SOAS continues to maintain its position as the major national centre for the study of programmes concerned with Asia, Africa and the Middle East. New teaching posts have been established, student numbers have increased and the School’s status as a leading research institution has been enhanced.