6.0025 Closure of Linguistics Department, SOAS, UK (1/64)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 21 May 1992 17:57:02 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0025. Thursday, 21 May 1992.

Date: Thu, 21 May 92 12:28 BST
From: Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Subject: Closure of Linguistics department at SOAS, UK

You may get more postings on this subject - we hope you do - but let me at
least alert HUMANIST colleagues to what looks being a major disaster in the
British humanities. The message that follows came to us via INDOLOGY and
is biased more to the closure of the publications department, but clearly the
loss of the linguistics dept. is equally, if not more, serious.

Marcus Banks, ISCA Oxford
David Zeitlyn, ISCA Oxford

From: Dominik Wujastyk <ucgadkw@UK.AC.UCL>
Subject: SOAS ceases all publications and cancels Linguistics!
X-To: indology@uk.ac.liverpool

On Monday this week the management committee of SOAS decided to close the SOAS
Publications' department, and also the Department of Linguistics. Later the
same day, all staff members connected with these departments were given notice
that their contracts would terminate in September 1992.

This means that the Bulletin of SOAS, a pillar of Indological publication, will
disappear, along with all other book series etc. Discussions will be initiated
with publishers like Blackwells and OUP to see if they want to take over BSOAS,
China Forum, etc. But it is hard to see how any publishing company will be
able to provide the specialized editorial functions which have until now been
supported by SOAS. The loss of the complete Linguistics department is equally

The background to this -- as far as I can gather -- is further cause for alarm.

Apparently SOAS has always received an annual special funding supplement
because the Department of Education recognised that Oriental and African
languages are
needed by the nation, but will never get the student numbers of other
mainstream subjects. This enabled SOAS to have a higher staff:student ratio
than other
colleges of London University.

This year, the University Funding Council (UFC) forgot to pay the special
funding supplement, leaving SOAS with a financial shortfall of 650,000 pounds
this year. But when the clerical error was discovered, the UFC refused to make
good the amount, and furthermore decided that it would not reinstate the
special funding in the future. SOAS's response to this is to save money on the
expensive part of their budget, namely staff salaries.

I think INDOLOGY members will agree that the whole story is incredible for many
reasons, but nevertheless it is true. It is hard to avoid the impression of
farcical mismanagement by the UFC and a devastatingly inadequate response from
SOAS itself. Perhaps there are mitigating facts that have not yet come to
light, but if so, they are not known to the staff members at SOAS who have been
sacked, nor to other staff members.

Letters of protest should be addressed to

Mr. Michael McWilliam,
School of Oriental and African Studies,
Thornhaugh Street,
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

Dominik Wujastyk, Wellcome Institute