SOAS University of London

Press review of the year 2013

10 January 2014

Thank you to the staff and students who have worked with the Communications team in the past twelve months to promote SOAS’ wide range of achievements and to offer expert comment, analysis and debate the issues affecting our regions. Here is a selection of the faculty, student and research stories that made the headlines in 2013.

If you have an upcoming paper or conference presentation that is potentially newsworthy, would like advice on working with the media or have an idea for a story, please contact Vesna Siljanovska, Media Relations Officer on or x4135

South East Asian Art
The £20 million Alphawood Foundation gift, one of the largest donations to a UK university, particularly in the field of arts and humanities, received phenomenal media coverage in November last year. The donation, which will be used to advance the study and preservation of Buddhist and Hindu art in Southeast Asia, received coverage on several BBC radio and television channels, including BBC One and BBC Radio 4, and national newspapers included The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, BBC China, The Hindu and News Co India. The number of broadcasts totalled 62, the number of articles totalled 200 and regional cuttings totalled 165.

Alphawood pic
Borobudur, Java, Indonesia ©Pia Conti

Languages and cultures
Professor Michel Hockx commented on censorship and literature in China extensively, particularly in light of Boris Johnson’s comments that UK children should be learning Mandarin in schools; Professor Anne Pauwels spoke about the important of languages in a multicultural world and Dr Kit Davies was a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4 commentating on the arts. SOAS students also showcased learning languages with CCTV, demonstrating their languages ability, many having learned the language completely from scratch!

Students on CCTV
SOAS Chinese language students commenting on the work 'tuhao' which means 'bling'

SOAS Students
In July last year, the student-led ‘Ramadan Tent’ marked the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan. The project, led by Omar Salha, involved both Muslim and non-Muslim students, and volunteers, who invited the general public, students and staff to share the breaking of the fast, known as Iftar, each day. The initiative was covered by Channel 4’s Ramadan Diaries, BBC Asia Network, Huffington Post Student, LBC Radio and BBC London news.

Ramadan Tent

The SOAS team on University Challenge on BBC Two will next be competing in the quarter finals this year, having roundly beaten their competitors from Reading and Southampton.  

Postgraduate students from SOAS set up an advocacy network, Banyan, to offer pro bono legal and policy research for groups such as civil society agencies, law firms and development organisations. In April last year, co-founders Jess Whelligan and Luke Smithan were featured in Guardian Education’s lead story, talking about how the organisation was formed and their work on major human rights cases. In an era where legal aid is being cut, the article suggests that universities will experience an increased demand for their free law clinics, particularly in immigration and refugee cases.

Radar, a media NGO, co-founded by SOAS history student, Kiran Flynn, grabbed the headlines last year for its work with marginalised groups in the UK and the developing world.  Radar supports citizen reporters and media professionals working in low resource environments through mobile journalism training and digital promotion. The group’s pilot project in Sierra Leone received coverage from both Al-Jazeera and the BBC World Service. Radar worked with 45 citizen journalists to cover the country’s November election, reporting via SMS.

Radar trainees learning how to report news via SMS in Sierra Leone. © Libby Powell, Radar
Dr Laura Hammond, a senior lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London helped to launch an international campaign to protect remittance flows to Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa Region. This followed news of Barclays’ announcement in last May that it would be closing the accounts of up to 250 companies worldwide involved in money transfer services, including those working in Somalia. London 94.9, The Guardian and BBC New covered the story and it was also listed as the number one campaign in Huffington Post by Nadeem Javaid, co-founder of the Muslim Agency for Development and Education in Europe.
Displaced comm pic
A man, who has been displaced for 20 years, stands beside his house and a tent given to him recently by the Iranian Red Crescent. He lives in Hargeisa, Somaliland where thousands of displaced people like him live the most precarious of lives (the tent is remarkable both because it is a rare thing to receive help and also because it is not watertight and thus not all that useful). Photo credit: Laura Hammond.
Politics and current affairs
Dr Laura Hammond commented extensively on the Westgate attacks in Kenya and on the Somali diaspora; Professor Gilbert Achcar was a key academic spokesperson on BBC News and Al Jazeera on both the Egypt and Syrian unrest, and discussed these issues in English, French and Arabic; Dr Marie Rodet covered the conflict in Mali; Dr Phil Clark provided frequent commentary on post-conflict governance in Rwanda, particularly focusing on the role of the ICC; Dr Enze Han commented on the elections in China in 2012 and most recently, reforms in China’s one-child policy and the China’s space technology; Dr Mike Jennings’ and Professor Stephen Chan’s all-round expertise on Africa were in demand and they were interviewed about the  death of Nelson Mandela, the elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya, Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, the acid attacks in Tanzania and al-Shabab in East Africa.

Higher Education
SOAS is now regularly featured in Times Higher Education. Throughout last year, a wide range of stories were covered, including the cover story in a November issue for Dr Phil Clark’s article on the challenges of working in post-conflict areas.
Rwanda pic
Rwanda, pic credit: Dr Phil Clark

SOAS events, funding news and archives collection were featured including stories about Endangered Languages Week, where as part of the programme a group of London schoolchildren from Bow School of Maths and Computing debated endangered languages and experience a Swahili language taster; the camel conference where our camel guest, Thérèse and Temujin ‘One hump or two’ marked a two-day conference, which  featured papers from international speakers on indigenous camel-herders in Iran, camel breeding for sustainable development in Egypt and the potential for camel’s milk as a cow’s milk alternative and also ‘Rwanda under the RPF’ conference, which assessed twenty years of post-conflict governance in the country. Additionally, the notebooks of Lieutenant William Dawes were featured in ‘Odds and Quads’ showcasing SOAS’ rich collection of archives.

Thérèse and Temujin, our wonderful camel guests, graced the pages of West End Week to mark the Camel Conference last year

SOAS exhibitions
The Everlasting Flame in History and Imagination in The Brunei Gallery was the first exhibition of its kind to provide a visual narrative of the history of Zoroastrianism, its rich cultural heritage and the influence it has had on the major world religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Running from 11 October until 14 December, the exhibition was described by Wall Street Journal as “splendid” and “elegant” and also secured coverage in BBC Radio 2, London 94.9, BBC Persia, Community Channel as well as specialist press such as Asian Art Newspaper and Eastern Art Europe.  

Ambassadors Painting © MAFOUZ de Sogdiane
Ambassadors Painting © MAFOUZ de Sogdiane

The Life and Afterlife of David Livingstone, brought together for the first time rarely seen archives, photographs, maps and artefact.  On display in the Brunei Gallery until 22 March 2014, it received coverage in London’s Time Out magazine in September. The review said, although Livingstone has been “caricatured as a bumbling fool” he became “one of Victorian Britain’s greatest heroes”. However: “Livingstone’s mission to spread ‘commerce, Christianity and civilisation’ to Africa has since put him squarely on the wrong side of history. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go so well.”

Starting a new Conversation…
The Conversation UK, is an independent online source of news and analysis that uses content sourced and written by the academic and research community but edited by professional journalists.. Started in Australia in 2010, a UK version was launched in May 2013. SOAS has been well presented with stories written by the following colleagues: Professor Michel Hockx on internet censorship in China and why British children should learn Chinese; Dr Mike Jennings on  tax and development; Dr Alessandra Mezzadri  on the Cambodian sweatshop protests; PhD scholar Robtel Neajai Pailey reviewed Long Walk to Freedom; Professor Rosaleen Duffy on lion hunt quotas and the impact on the environment, and on the royals and conservation; Dr Simon Rofe on the importance of foreign language skills for diplomacy and Professor Lawrence Sáez on why India will never become a superpower.  Find out more about writing for The Conversation UK.