SOAS University of London

School of Law

SOAS School of Law influences public and policy debate, legal practice and public understanding of social and legal issues by drawing on its wide thematic and regional expertise. The work of its scholars has made a significant impact on non-academic groups and other beneficiaries and audiences both in the UK and in our specialist regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Working for change

Our research in the School of Law influences public and policy debate, legal practice and public understanding of social and legal issues. Our wide thematic and regional expertise makes a significant impact on a non-academic bodies and individuals in the UK and in our specialist regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

We use the insights of our research to:

  • shape policy within government, quasi-government bodies, international agencies and NGOs
  • influence professional standards, debate and training within the legal profession
  • influence legislative change and dispute resolution
  • develop resources to enhance professional practice.

We engage with external organisations and individuals in many different ways, including:

  • collaborations with non-academic bodies to develop and deliver projects;
  • structured engagements, through appointments as advisors and participation in regular fora
  • remapping of conceptual frameworks, leading to changes in discourse and practice
  • driving public debate.

In addition to this wide-reaching impact around the globe,  we seek to influence public debate and to improve social welfare, equality and social inclusion within the UK.

Building the legal case against 'honour' crimes

The work of Professor Lynn Welchman with fellow researchers, practitioners, human rights advocates and others has led to a new working definition of ‘honour crimes’ which has become a widely accepted by the criminal justice system, becoming embedded in the Honour Based Violence Strategy of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and by public-facing statutory services. Her co-edited book on ‘crimes of honour’ has been translated into Kurdish and Turkish. Read more...

Influencing dispute resolution

The scholarship of Professor of South Asian Martin Lau on Islamic constitutionalism, legal pluralism and judicial independence underpinned his work with the European Commission, the World Bank and the UN in the area of justice sector reform in Afghanistan, as part of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

Fighting discrimination

Fareda Banda, Professor in the Laws of Africa, was invited to report for the Women’s Rights and Gender Unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on laws that discriminate against women. As a direct result, the UN Human Rights Council established a Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice in 2010.

Driving public debate

The public evening seminar series of the Law, Environment and Development Centre (LEDC) has brought together speakers from academia, policy and legal practice, including from Climate Focus, Amnesty International, Third World Network, ClientEarth, The Gaia Foundation and Leigh Day & Co; whilst the SOAS Governance for Development in Africa programmes provide a forum for direct engagement, by bringing together academics, public sector officials, civil servants and managers from African institutions to examine issues of leadership and governance within African states, and the role of civil society in development.

Our principal research themes

We work with

Civil society organisations
  • Amnesty International
  • Runnymede Trust
  • International Centre for Transitional Justice
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Minority Rights Group
  • Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council
  • Musawah, the Global Network for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family
  • European Council on Refugees and Exiles
Governments and NGOs
  • DFID
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
  • European Commission
  • Government of India Planning Commission
  • UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee
  • Thailand Truth for Reconciliation Commission
International agencies
  • World Bank
  • UN
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • World Economic Forum
  • Asian Development Bank
Legal profession and judiciary
  • Abu Dhabi
  • UAE
  • Bangladesh

Shaping policy and reform

Dr Lutz Oette’s research with the human rights organisation REDRESS influenced approaches to law reform in Sudan. Since 2007, Dr Oette has focused on criminal law and human rights in Sudan, working closely with Sudanese academics and stakeholders, such as members of the law faculty at the University of Khartoum. His research has been referred to and relied upon in reports and interventions by international and national human rights organisations, and has been reflected in the concluding observations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Sudan and the work of UN bodies.

Informing legislation

Philippe Cullet, Professor of International and Environmental Law, has worked closely with the Indian Government’s Planning Commission since 2009, in particular with its working group on water governance. Cullet’s research, in particular his 2009 monograph, helped to re-define the conceptual framework underpinning water law, such that it is now informed by human rights and sustainability concerns. This has led to a draft model bill that introduces a radically new legal structure.

Developing policy

Diamond Ashiagbor, Professor of Labour Law, is a member of the Academic Forum of the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading independent race equality think-tank. The function of the Forum is to bring to bear insights from academic research in supporting the work of Runnymede, engage with the Runnymede’s work, and influence policymakers.

Defending human rights

Professor Mashood Baderin, Professor of Law,  was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan in 2012 and in 2013 was invited to join the UK Foreign Secretary’s Human Rights Advisory Group. His book International Human Rights and Islamic Law has been translated by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission for promoting human rights in Indonesia.