SOAS University of London

Open letter to Times 3 August from Marie Staunton, Chair of Board of Trustees

3 August 2019

It is not the case that debts at SOAS are growing or that student numbers have declined by 40%, nor is our Director quitting after 4 years ("Struggling Soas loses chief to Oxford as debts mount up", Times 3 August 2019).

SOAS finances are healthy, with a rising incoming line and a projected surplus of over 3% in 2022-23. UG student acceptances are up by 20% this year. Our Director is staying for an agreed 5-year term, before taking up the headship of an Oxford College in summer 2020.

The SOAS Board is transparent in its accounts and forecasts but this has led to the wrong inferences being drawn. Financial forecasts which you reference were ones from past years which illustrated what might happen if we didn’t successfully take action.

Since then, through a combination of growing our income - providing attractive courses for students here and with partners overseas, through more innovative online programmes, and through reducing our spending by reorganising some of our staffing structures, we are forecasting that SOAS will balance its finances well in the coming years.

As well as steps to balance our books, we have seen interest in SOAS grow with acceptances of our undergraduate offers for 2019-20 increase by 20% on last year. Like other universities, we have been affected by the reduced numbers of 18-year-olds in the population and increased competition for talented students, but our student numbers overall have decreased by 8% not 40%.

SOAS is a vibrant institution and we will continue to provide high-quality teaching and services for our students’ programmes of study. This has also been helped by our successful alumni and major donor programme which has a return on investment the envy of other institutions.

Our partners, alumni and donors recognise the unique contribution SOAS makes to scholarship and teaching. And as the UK seeks to chart a future independent of the EU and forge new relationships with other nations, there is an ever greater need for an institution which can critically examine how the world sees the UK and how the UK sees the world.

Marie Staunton
Chair of SOAS Board of Trustees
3 August 2019

See also statement on SOAS Director to take up new role at Oxford in summer 2020