SOAS pulls through financial crisis

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UK.AC.UCL
Tue Jul 7 20:13:48 UTC 1992

It seems that SOAS will survive its recent crisis with a degree of
departmental integrity.
The Director's decision to summarily axe the department of phonetics
and linguistics and the publications department, as well as all
publications, has been withdrawn.  I understand that staff who were
told that their contracts would be terminated in September have been
notified that this is no longer the case.
A meeting of the SOAS Governing Body  on 18 June considered the
recommendations of the Finance & General Purpose Committee, and the
advice of the Academic Board, and accepted that the decision to close
Phonetics & Linguistics should be withdrawn.  Some of the other
proposals are subject to further investigation of available options.
A working party has been set up within SOAS to try to identify
alternative measures that will save money.
Also, the Universities Funding Council has decided to set up a special
working party on SOAS to report by the end of November on a way of
replacing the so-called special factor grant which has in the past
supported SOAS's teaching of minority subjects.  This act of the UFC is
being taken as a signal that it has accepted in principle the case for
continuing the special grant, but perhaps in a new guise.
To decode the above:  the director's decisions caused an uproar, both
within SOAS and from colleagues worldwide.  At one point, a thick
folder was on display in the senior common room, full of letters of
concern and protest over the proposed SOAS cuts.  It is certain that
this strong response was a major factor in causing the cuts to be withdrawn.
Note that the decision on the cuts had been announced, and individuals had
been given notice.  This was not just a leak from a committee
considering such cuts.  It had happened.
Happily it has now un-happened.  But the financial crisis has not
disappeared.  Rather than implementing draconian cuts to put itself
immediately on a sound financial footing, SOAS has brought academic
staff into the decision-making process, and is attempting to make
equivalent savings by a more gradualistic, institution-wide pruning.
This too will be uncomfortable.  While this is going on, SOAS will dip
into its capital to keep itself afloat.
The apparent change of heart of the UFC is perhaps the brightest
feature of all this.

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