School of Oriental and African Studies

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School of Oriental and African Studies

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Motto "Knowledge is Power."
Established 1916
Location Bloomsbury, London, United Kingdom
Students 3,200 total

The School of Oriental and African Studies (often abbreviated to SOAS) was founded in 1916 primarily as an institution to train British administrators for colonial postings, and has grown into one of the world's foremost institutions for the study of Asia and Africa. A college of the University of London, SOAS fields include Law, Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages with special reference to Asia and Africa. SOAS today is a source of some of the most influential and innovative thinking in many fields of the social sciences and humanities, principally, but not exclusively in relation to Asia and Africa. The SOAS Library, housed in a building designed at the beginning of the 1970s by Sir Denys Lasdun, is the UK's national resource for materials relating to Asia and Africa and is the largest of its kind in Europe.

The school has grown considerably over the past thirty years, from under 1,000 students in the 1970s to over 3,000 students today, approximately half of them postgraduates.

The school also houses two galleries: the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, one of the foremost collections of Chinese ceramics in Europe, and the Brunei Gallery, completed in 1995, which stages temporary exhibitions of both historical and contemporary materials which reflect subjects and regions studied at SOAS.

The main campus was moved to a new, purpose-built home, just off Russell Square in Bloomsbury in 1938, and has much expanded since then. The present library building was added in 1977, the Brunei Gallery in 1995, and an extension to the library building opened in 2004. A new campus at Vernon Square in Islington was opened in 2001.

SOAS is consistently rated as one of the United Kingdom's top ten higher education institutions in national League tables. In the most recent Guardian League Table (2005) SOAS was ranked 4th nationally out of 122 UK Higher Education institutions. This is the third year in a row that the School has achieved 4th place in the Guardian Newspaper rankings. Internationally, in November 2004 SOAS was ranked the 44th best university in the world by the THES world league table of universities (the 7th UK university, and 11th European university in the table).


SOAS graduates can be found throughout the world in positions of influence in (amongst others) academia, diplomacy, journalism, government, the law, international institutions, non-governmental organisations, banking and finance, the arts, the media and education.

Notable alumni

Notable members of staff

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Recognized bodies of the University of London

Birkbeck | Goldsmiths | Heythrop | Imperial | Institute of Cancer Research | Institute of Education | King's | London Business School | LSE | London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Queen Mary | Royal Academy of Music | Royal Holloway | Royal Veterinary College | St George's | SOAS | School of Pharmacy | UCL

Listed bodies

British Institute in Paris | Courtauld Institute of Art | School of Advanced Study | University Marine Biological Station, Millport


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