SOAS University of London

SOAS Music Department first in UK for research outputs

18 December 2014

The UK’s only Music department specialising in world music has been recognised for ‘world-leading’ research and ‘outstanding impacts’ in the 2014 the Research Excellence Framework.  

Overall, Music at SOAS was ranked 5th in the UK out of 44 departments of music, and top in terms of its publications.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) is carried out every six to seven years by the UK Government to assess the quality of research carried out in UK Higher Education Institutions.  Today, 18 December 2014, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published the results of the submissions made by SOAS to 10 subject panels.

The SOAS submission to REF 2014 involved around 1,000 items of publication across the School, as well as over thirty case studies demonstrating how the School’s research has achieved impact beyond academia, both in the UK and in the School’s specialist regions - Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The Music Department’s research and teaching foster greater understanding of traditional and contemporary musical styles and music-making. In addition, its research has also proved to be a powerful tool for exploring cultural identity, preserving endangered traditions and even supporting literacy.  The focus of the Department is both local, within the SOAS regions, and global, as musicians and mediated sounds circulate internationally and performance undergoes rapid change, producing new forms of musical experience and creativity.

The work of two SOAS music experts also shows how SOAS music research makes a significant impact outside academia.

Dr Lucy Duran’s championship and sensitive production of the work of Bassekou Kouyate
, a respected Bamana musician, and traditional music from a remote swathe of the Niger, introduced to global audiences a new type and sound of Malian music. The success of the albums she produced has also fed back into Malian culture, reinvigorating interest in the centuries-old instrument ngoni. 

Dr Angela Impey’s ethnomusicological research in the Republic of South Sudan has supported the spreading of literacy in a fledgling state. By working with Dinka communities, and recording an expansive collection of Dinka songs, she helped to develop the first written resources for schoolchildren produced in Dinka, which are crucial to meeting the new nation’s need for universal mother-tongue literacy training.  

Richard Widdess, Professor of Musicology and Head of the Department of Music said: “We are extremely pleased that our world leading research has been recognised.  Music has always been – and will always be – at the heart of human life and our deep knowledge of our regions means we are positioned to identify, interpret and promote traditional and contemporary music to the wider world.”