Free education/SOAS Occupation/SOAS Student Statement of Occupation

SOAS Student Statement of Occupation

15 October 2015

On Thursday the 8th of October 2015, two days after the occupation of the Brunei Suite, the General Assembly of the SOAS Student Union voted unanimously for a resolution of no confidence in the school’s senior management.

The resolution has been a long time coming. Over the years, students and academic and support staff have been in conflict with management over a range of issues – over and over again. As diverse as we all are (always disagreeing and debating about almost everything), there is one thing that we can all agree on: SOAS’ management needs to change.

Whether it is their bureaucratic intransigence preventing us from switching courses and choosing our tutorials, or the more serious matters of outsourcing and course cuts, SOAS management consistently ignores the needs and wishes of students and the exploitation of its staff. They make decisions without us and impose them on us as if our viewpoints do not matter.

  • When we passed a referendum with an overwhelming majority (73%) in support of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign last year, management ignored us.
  • When we opposed the outsourcing of cleaners, security and other workers, management ignored us.
  • When the Fractionals went on strike for a fair pay, management ignored them.
  • The 14% gender pay gap remains ignored and institutional racism thrives.

The Executive Board wants to make 6.5 million pounds of cuts. Why do they insist on redundancies? Why won’t they start with cutting their own inflated salaries?

What the occupation has realised is that no matter how many resolutions we pass as students and academic and support staff, the management will continue to ignore us. The SOAS Student Union is great and always very supportive of the students. Yet the undemocratic structures of governance at the university mean that the SU gets very little say (2 votes in a body of 22 people) over the big decisions such as those about fees, courses and worker rights.

As students, we are sick and tired of being treated as walking ATM machines who are only as good as the money we bring into the university. The people that run this institution will only listen when they are forced to do so. The occupation is therefore the first step in challenging the management’s autocratic authority. The occupation will not rest until students and all the staff are no longer subjects, but active participants in the running of this university.

It is time that SOAS democratises.

The current governing situation under the Executive Board and Board of Trustees must be restructured. In its place, students, academic staff and support staff should have authority over the running of our university. The first step in achieving this, as occupiers, is to open up the Brunei Gallery to courses, discussions and lectures by students, lecturers, and workers in SOAS as well as many supporters from outside the university. This space will be a pedagogical space where we all learn together outside the confines of corporatism. Through this action of creating our own free university, the occupation will show that students and staff are capable of driving our own education and that there is no need for senior management to design our curriculum for us. Anyone who would like to hold an event at the SOAS Student Occupation can email us at or find us on Facebook. This university belongs to those who work here and study here.

Or in the words of distinguished cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who advocated for the decolonisation of higher education: “The university is a critical institution or it is nothing.”