Skip to content

SOAS’ New Director: Benefits of International Experience

  • Opinion

Micheil Page, BA Development Studies and Geography

‘After almost 9 years of service, Professor Paul Webley is stepping down as Director of SOAS’: as a young fresher last year, I was definitely saddened. Only one year into my degree, my university was changing directors, and no one knew just how much this could affect the university as a whole.

The announcement that Valerie Amos would be our new Director produced mixed feelings amongst the student body. Many believe that Baroness Amos is the ideal person to assume the post of Director at our beloved SOAS. From her birth country of Guyana to her post at the United Nations, Baroness Amos appears to have worked for and supported the many goals and visions that a majority of SOASians stand for.

She emerged through working towards equal opportunities in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Camden and Hackney; aiming to eliminate sexual discrimination and promoting gender equality and opportunities for women. This was followed by numerous projects and impressive achievements.

She moved through as British High Commissioner to Australia, to most recently being Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as a stint as Australia Emergency Relief Coordinator, both at the UN. With experience in fighting for equality, international development, and also having spent time in Syria, Baroness Amos certainly appears to have the right credentials for the job.

However I’m sure there will be a few students that are less convinced. While being International Develop-
ment Secretary at the time, Baroness Amos was one of the many Labour Party members under Tony Blair who promoted the abhorrent invasion of Iraq in 2003. This dark spell has surely not gone unnoticed by many people within SOAS, and will most certainly cause some to be sceptical about what this could mean for the University.

In my opinion, Amos’ work with the UN and other recent achievements would mean that these mistakes are in the past. However, this is merely petty politics. What does this really mean for SOAS? Her appointment is one of in-
credible value; being the first woman of Afro-Caribbean descent to direct an educational establishment in Britain.

I think it’s a perfect opportunity to truly reflect the diversity and inclusivity that SOAS offers. Moreover her interest and experience in global affairs and equality could mean great success for campaigns such as Democratise SOAS, Justice for Cleaners and many others. In my mind, Baroness Amos has the potential to bring about great change within our beloved university; a change which I’m sure many of us are looking for. We will see just how well she fares this coming year and I hope you will join me in wishing her the best in her new position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *