Academics, Agents and Activists: A history of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1916-2016

By Special Collections, SOAS Library|30th January 2017|Collections & Research|0 comments

John Hollingworth, Gallery Manager and co-curator of ‘Academics, Agents & Activists: a history of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1916-2016’, continues his overview of this fascinating centenary exhibition recently on display at the Brunei Gallery, which showcased material from the incredibly rich archive collections at SOAS – both the School’s own institutional archive and material held by Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library. The exhibition was organized around the tenures of the School’s Directors, with the sixth being that of Tim Lankaster.

The Lankester Years, 1996-2000

Sir Tim Lankester KCB (b.1942), Director of SOAS (1996 – 2000). 2015 Digital print on canvas; 2010, original oil on canvas, by James Lloyd © SOAS

Sir Tim Lankester was Director of SOAS from 1996 to 2000. During his directorship SOAS continued to grow in size and he helped to take forward many new initiatives. His encouragement and support enabled SOAS to improve its performance on the research side, and to maintain its place among the UK’s leading academic institutions. He was particularly active in giving SOAS a high international profile and played a major role in attracting external funding for academic positions and student scholarships.

Significantly, SOAS was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 1996, for the International Distance Learning programme offered by the Centre for International Education in Economics (CIEE). This prize rewards “outstanding achievement and excellence in UK universities and colleges.” They are much coveted, particularly since they are rarely given. There have only been eight rounds of awards since the prizes were founded in 1994. About 20 prizes are given in each round. Winning a single Queen’s Anniversary Prize is considered a great achievement for a higher-education institution: SOAS has now won two.

Queens Award on display in the exhibition. © SOAS

It was during his tenure that funding for major new initiatives was secured, including the Hans Rausing Endangered Language Project (HRELP) which is dedicated to the preservation of endangered languages globally. In addition, SOAS’s special funding for minority subjects was renewed for a further five years and the Arts and Humanities Research Board awarded the School a large grant to establish a Centre for Asian and African Literature. This successful bid was led by Professor Drew Gerstle.

In 2000 the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP) which offers distance learning for postgraduate teaching in the fields of agricultural economics, managing rural development, environmental economics and management, poverty reduction, and sustainability and development became part of the School.

As the School continued to grow and the need for more space became urgent in 2000 the School acquired a former school at Vernon Square near Kings Cross. This was formally opened by the Princess Royal as Chancellor of the University in 2001.

Vernon Square campus. © SOAS

Professor Christopher Shackle left and Professor Gurharpal Singh, Dean of Arts & Humanities, right. © SOAS

Sir Tim stepped down in 2000 and Emeritus Professor Christopher Shackle was acting Director from the end of 2000 until the new Director was appointed in the summer of 2001.

By the academic year 2000 – 2001 the School had 2,993 Undergraduate and Postgraduate students of which approximately 46% were from the EU or overseas.

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About Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4180

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