SOAS University of London

SOAS plans for the future

15 June 2020

For more than a hundred years, SOAS has been a unique voice in the UK and global higher education landscape. Faced with the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, we are today launching a major staff and student consultation on budget and restructuring plans to deal with the financial impact of the pandemic.

By taking decisive action, we are creating the foundations for a financially sustainable academic institution, committed to addressing the global challenges of this historical moment, while simultaneously advancing social justice as the bridge to our common humanity.

A future SOAS will enable students, institutions, and governments to navigate our complex world and grapple with the issues of climate change, inequality and economic inclusion, decolonisation and social and political polarisation. At the same time, we remain committed to outstanding academic success through the inclusive production of knowledge about our planet and the development of socially responsive and globally oriented graduates, professionals, and citizens.

The plans released today will allow SOAS to recover and rebuild - with an upfront lowering of overall operational spending by approximately £17m in our 2020/21 budget. This will free up investment for the strongest frontline teaching, research and services in the medium to long-term.

It comes after SOAS‘s own analysis of a range of pandemic scenarios estimates a potential income loss of up to £16.9m (approximately 20% of revenue) in 2020/21. We will potentially lose up to 50% of our usual international student intake, 15% of our home/EU students and 10% deferral rates from existing students.

The Board of Trustees have agreed the proposals be put to a 30-day consultation, providing every single member of staff and student with the opportunity to give their views and propose new ideas during the process.

The consultation follows engagement with staff and students across the university on the case for change over the last four weeks - including a 90-minute all-staff Q&A and two Academic Senate meetings and ongoing discussion with colleagues from Unison, UCU and the Students’ Union.

In light of consultation, the Director of Transformation & Change, Professor Graham Upton, will bring back detailed restructure plans for the Board of Trustees at the end of July - and then move into an implementation phase.

These restructuring proposals are being taken forward alongside other strands of work which look to improve how SOAS works and to grow its income:

  • All departments have also been undertaking a close review of the SOAS curriculum to make sure we continue to deliver excellence in our teaching and research;
  • Future-looking market research and analysis of programme review is underway, including conducting student focus groups and surveys to augment our existing strengths with areas of potential growth;
  • We are reviewing our existing partnerships and external stakeholders to assess how we can drive forward growth with key external partners, such as in new TNE programmes we have already developed;
  • The development of a new Global School of Business and Public Policy as a key driver in raising our profile and expanding into new areas of growth.

Quote from Board of Trustees Chair Marie Staunton: 

"SOAS has a strong future but only if we make the right calls now. We have always been open about the financial challenges facing highly specialised, small and London-based institutions and COVID has intensified that challenge across the whole HE sector. So, we need to be honest about the stakes. SOAS needs to be financially strong and viable if it is to fight for social justice, change and equality. We will let down our global community of students, supporters and friends if we duck our responsibilities now to get our house in order.

So, over the next 30 days, we are asking the SOAS community to come together, pull together, work together - to take shared responsibility for putting SOAS back on track. The outline plans are a starting point for how we invest in our strongest teaching; protecting our best research; building our global impact - and giving students an outstanding academic and social experience."