SOAS University of London

Legal and Governance Directorate

SOAS Language Strategy

1.  Introduction
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.

1.1  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.

Please see the link on the right hand side of this page for the full strategy document.