SOAS University of London

SOAS marks new era with opening of the Paul Webley Wing in centenary year

8 September 2016

SOAS University of London celebrated the opening of its new estate the Paul Webley Wing in the North Block of Senate House. The building, named in honour of SOAS's eighth director Professor Paul Webley who passed away in March 2016, marks the beginning of SOAS’s next 100 years.

The building was formally opened by Julie Dawick, wife of Professor Paul Webley. SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH and two of SOAS Students' Union Co­Presidents, Adwoa Darko and Ayesha Abbasi, also gave speeches at the celebratory event.

Julie Dawick, wife of Professor Webley, formally opens the building

Julie Dawick, wife of Professor Webley, formally opens the building

Attendees at the event included Ambassadors and High Commissioners of countries in the Middles East, Asia and Africa; Mayor of Camden, Councillor Nadia Shah; SOAS Honorary Fellows, including Michael Palin; donors who had supported the building’s development; senior staff from the University of London colleges; and staff and students from SOAS.

Julie Dawick, wife of Professor Webley spoke of Senate House’s iconic history and how people expect great things from this building. She said: “SOAS’s expertise and enthusiasm for what’s going on in the world makes this building a natural home for it.”

Baroness Amos said: “How we work, learn, teach and study has changed dramatically over the last 100 years and so our work spaces have to change too. The focus in this building is on supporting collaborative working and enhancing creative thinking. SOAS students and staff are all about ideas and thinking the unthinkable. We hope the setup of this new building will promote this.”

SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH speaking at the opening event

SOAS Director Baroness Valeries Amos CH speaking at the opening event

Ayesha Abbasi, SOAS Students' Union Co-President Welfare & Campaigns said: “As an institution that prides itself on its inclusivity, having different learning spaces that acknowledge the development of learning and teaching is imperative. It’s great that we now have these facilities available to us. The move of the essential departments, such as Welfare, Registry and Careers, closer to the heart of SOAS, will also make life easier for many students.”

Adwoa Darko, SOAS Students’ Union Co-President Activities & Events added: “The new building raises the facilities of SOAS to match its worldwide reputation. There is now no obstacle for SOAS to reach its potential.”

SOAS Students' Union Co-­Presidents, Adwoa Darko and Ayesha Abbasi

SOAS Students' Union Co-­Presidents, Adwoa Darko and Ayesha Abbasi

The event included music by Dom Kippur, short talks by SOAS academics Professor Stephen Hopgood, Reader in International Relations; Dr Stacey Pierson, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Ceramics; and Dr Angus Lockyer, Lecturer in the History of Japan, and a Japanese tea ceremony.

The UN Secretary General wrote an official letter to SOAS congratulating the School on its 100 years and the opening of the Paul Webley Wing. The letter stated: "I have been privileged to work with many of your alumni on a wide range of issues, from democracy, development and human rights to identity, religion and social change. SOAS has long made a lasting mark, both in the United Kingdom and beyond."

The redevelopment of the iconic building enables SOAS, the world's leading institution for the languages, cultures and societies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, to improve the student experience significantly by offering modern facilities. It will enhance learning and teaching spaces for staff and students and it also unites the SOAS campus in Bloomsbury.

The construction project has taken place across five floors of the landmark 1930s University of London building and has included the creation of a plaza – the Eychaner Atrium - under a double curvature glass canopy. Within the building, the Weston Student Hub will provide a range of services for students including accommodation, counselling, course registration, student finance, careers and enterprise.

The opening was held on 7 September and is part of the School’s Centenary celebrations. Further events will be held throughout 2016-2017.

To find out more, visit the SOAS Centenary pages.