SOAS University of London

SOAS secures £5 million for strategically important and vulnerable languages

28 September 2017

SOAS University of London has been awarded major funding from HEFCE’s Catalyst fund for a project to safeguard UK provision in strategically important and vulnerable languages (SIL) of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The £5 million Catalyst funding will make a significant contribution to the planned renovation of the SOAS estate – which will see investment into dedicated languages teaching facilities and linked areas at SOAS. The School has also launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to raise matched funding support, with the aim to create a £10m endowment fund to underpin SIL scholarship at SOAS in perpetuity.

SOAS has an unrivalled expertise in research and teaching of African, Asian and Middle Eastern languages. As well Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin, the School currently teaches 22 languages[i] at degree level which are strategically important and vulnerable in UK higher education. These 22 languages are spoken as a first language by 1.1 billion people across the world.  Within the UK, of these 13 are taught only at SOAS at university level.

Professor Lutz Marten, Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Cultures, who led the bid for SOAS, said: “Knowledge and understanding of these languages and associated cultures is becoming increasingly important for the UK and its wider international interests – for critical understanding of geopolitics and diplomacy, and of global cultural dynamics, for international development, international business and trade, and social cohesion within the UK. The project aims to maintain and strengthen provision in these languages in the future.”

[i] The 22 SIL languages are: Amharic, Hausa, Somali, Swahili, Yoruba, Zulu (Africa); Hebrew, Persian, Turkish (Near and Middle East); Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Urdu (South Asia); Burmese, Indonesian, Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese (South East Asia); and Cantonese, Hokkien, Tibetan (East Asia).