Jonny Morrison, BA Politics
In an address to staff on Thursday, SOAS director Valerie Amos had laid out plans to increase cuts to the school budget by 117%, from £3million to £6.5million, by removing post-graduate growth targets and taking into account recruitment for this academic year.
This comes a week after a controversy in which documents were leaked, showing 184 courses to be cut, decimating departments and courses. Whilst these documents have been withdrawn, senior management are pushing through budget cuts, saying that they need to avoid a deficit.
However, last year, despite student recruitment significantly missing most targets, causing a £2.5m budget shortfall, SOAS made a surplus of around £1m. A deficit running for one year out of the past seven, was been blamed on lower student numbers, and high levels of investment in IT infrastructure and support systems for staff. The £33m Senate House project is being part funded by endowments, sale of investments, borrowing and general income.
In July, Savid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the government department responsible for universities, announced £150m of cuts to teachings grants, which will affect SOAS to the tune of £100k for this year.
SOAS’ income has grown by 15% in the past 3 years, fuelled by a rise in tuition fees, but has been thwarted by its inability to recruit, especially in postgraduate taught (Masters) programmes, placing pressure on some undergraduate programmes to over-recruit. Whilst masters applications were up this year, many students have deferred their offers, with funding being a major issue. From next year, the newly established Paul Webley Alphawood Scholarships will support students studying the MA in Human Rights Law or the LLM in Human Rights, Conflict and Justice, from a £125k fund from the Alphawood Fund.
The current five-year-plan at SOAS aims for a 2% budget surplus, however, the board of trustees has set this aim to rise to 5% over the next 2 years. This figure was decided upon several years ago in order to “provide sufficient funds for investment in the School’s estate and in new academic initiatives, as well as providing a buffer for unexpected income reductions”. SOAS was meeting its 2% budget surplus target for the years prior to massive infrastructure investment, and has still been making a surplus most years, despite investment missing student recruitment targets.
Questions have been raised on the increase in Director’s salary since Amos has taken up the position and also the ability of SOAS to increase recruitment if courses are cut. Students and staff are currently occupying the Brunei Suite to protest against course cuts and outsourcing of staff.