A SOAS Research Associate, to whom SOAS gave £20,000 for failing to provide them with PhD supervision, has called on students to take action against the School’s management.
The revelations were first published by Times Higher Education on 4 October, revealing that Dr Vishal Vora, who completed his PhD at SOAS’ School of Law and is now a Research Fellow in Germany, did not receive supervision during his six-year PhD research period at SOAS. After the student made three official complaints and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator told him that a tuition fees refund was not justified, Dr Vora issued a legal case which SOAS did not defend. As such, SOAS paid him £20,000 in compensation for his distress and inconvenience along with a full refund of tuition fees and costs.
Since the publication of the article in early October, Dr Vora said that the response has been ‘overwhelming’, with more than forty students coming forward and informing him of similar struggles with SOAS departments and administration. ‘It has been sad to have all these messages come through, clearly I was not alone.’
However, this is not the first time that complaints regarding a lack of supervision have been published in the press. In 2017, the Times Higher Education published news of another SOAS student who was granted £5,000 in compensation for a similar supervision complaint. In response, a SOAS spokesperson stated in July 2017 that Baroness Amos was initiating a review to examine the lessons SOAS needed to learn, though this has yet to be published.
Dr Vora also stated that he is now interested in working to help students know how to make legitimate complaints. ‘All the relevant information is on the SOAS website. It is just a case of being honest with yourself and asking if you really have a valid complaint. If you do, then follow the instructions, complete the form and be organised, with your evidence in hand.’
He stated that the lack of supervision had a detrimental impact on his relationship, family and friends. ‘It took a massive toll on my entire life. I spent my entire period at SOAS feeling unvalued, lost and stressed’, and that SOAS owes him, at minimum, an apology and that it should provide students with the professional services they are paying for.
Despite the payout, Dr Vora has yet to receive a formal apology from the university, which he says is symbolic of SOAS management’s arrogance and adamant clutch on power. In fact, the University has outright refused to issue an apology, even though it did not defend itself against Dr Vora’s legal claim.
‘They are not used to students complaining, but students really need to hold the institution to account, otherwise nothing happens.’
KHADIJA KOTHIA, BA HISTORY
MANAGING EDITOR OF THE SOAS SPIRIT.