SOAS Occupied!

The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has just occupied the Brunei Gallery in protest at rising education fees and swingeing cuts. The occupation was proposed and decided on at an emergency general meeting of the Student’s Union last week.

Please send messages of solidarity to:

Updates, demands and pictures to be uploaded soon.

UPDATE: First message of solidarity is from Kathmandu! Thanks Aksel Lydersen – typical SOAS 😉

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60 Responses to SOAS Occupied!

  1. Tony says:

    What a waste of time. Clare Solomon get a proper job

    • Hoorah! says:

      Hey Tony, why didn’t you just go with the usual lame, “First!” you tosser. This is the righteous thing to do, get your moral code in order.

      E-hugs to Clare and friends 🙂 Be strong!

    • Doh Tony, get your facts right!

      Congratulations on SOAS students not only for occupying but for doing this in a democratic, open way.

      I think that SOAS management will be hoping that occupations spread to other unis! Come on UCL, Kings, LSE etc – get them all on board.

      We need to mount maximum pressure on all the management to collectively put pressure on the government.

      Well done again. In solidarity, Clare Solomon ULU President

    • Maham says:

      very constructive, thanks!!

  2. Ady Cousins says:

    Congratulations to the student occupiers at SOAS – once again in the front line of resistance to inequality and injustice, you’re an example to everyone!
    Ady Cousins
    Unite Rep
    London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (personal capacity)

  3. Young and old should support the student protests. The worst victims of Thatherite police policies were the (then) unborn, who are now occupying their lecture theatres!

  4. richard says:

    solidarity, all power to you!
    remember to check out the resources at

  5. Dave Gilchrist says:

    Solidarity from NUT members at Noel Park Primary School. Education is a right not a privilege!

    Dave Gilchrist
    NUT rep NPPS

  6. Claire Hulatt says:

    Well done and Keep Strong! You’re an inspiration. Roll on Wednesday …

  7. Go Students Go!
    100 % behind you!

  8. A SOAS student says:

    Can somebody please explain, what is the point of occupying the School? The School is not responsible for the cuts, it is a victim of them. If you want to make a point and be heard, occupy government offices or city banks, the people who responsible for what is going to happen.

    In fact I know exactly why you are doing it – because if you occupied anywhere else you are afraid of being arrested, whereas at the School the most you will get is a slap on wrists.

    This occupation is a waste of time and as a SOAS student I’m ashamed you are doing it in my name.

    • Maham says:

      The occupation is an open space why don’t you come around and discuss your concerns, there are various reasons why we needed to occupy SOAS. By the way some of us have been occupying government buildings as well and have been arrested in doing so. . . what have you been doing??

      • A SOAS Student says:

        You haven’t answered my question so I shall repeat it. What is the point of occupying the School?

      • Maham says:

        It gives our VC the leverage (some would say the push) he needs to take a stance on teaching funding cuts and call for other VCs around the country to take a stance on cuts. It also gives him a reason to put pressure on the government and we get the space we need to organise the student part of this fight. Anymore questions? naturally this is my opinion not necessarily the whole occupations 🙂

    • pistachio says:

      SOAS students get down there and talk to the occupiers. They’re not all brick wielding anarchists and will answer your questions and qualms, especially if you bring biscuits!

    • John-Paul Washer says:

      Completely agree. It is a waste of time. Occupying city banks and government buildings would be the only way. People are too scared do really try and do something. SOAS Students also need to look at the wider picture. Our education is a right not a privilage not a right. However, this is also true of everyone in the world. The international students at SOAS are very fortunate either to have the family income or Governments willing to assist them to go to SOAS. There are many people in the world who don’t have these opportunities. In the past decades, as Westerners, we have enjoyed an unjustified bias towards Western Educational systems: people have aspired to go to London, Oxford, Cambridge to study. The world is changing and therefore so is this bias. Especially in Asia, and predominantly in China, where many people are starting to consider their own educational systems as equal to Western institutes or perhaps even better. The international league tables are a lie: they are collated by Western institutions.
      Therefore, if we want to keep some sort of foothold in the world as a country, for our degrees to be given the respect which we have enjoyed for so long, to compete in a ever increasingly international job market; we can no longer simply rely on our ever ailing reputation but compete and make ourselves as good as we can be.
      It is wrong that the Government is cutting funds. During this period of history the Government should be assisting us as much as possible. They can’t, they have no money and no matter who’s fault that is, we will inevitably have to pay. Sounds very corny but we are living in a Brave New World where everyone in the world (even the US) has to work very hard to keep afloat. Instead of moaning about our own (still very fortunate) position, let’s realize things have changed and join the millions of others who have to struggle together in this world.

      A SOAS Student living in Beijing. (Elly Badcock, you probably know who I am ;))

  9. Jane Calveley says:

    Congratulations and solidarity to everyone occupying SOAS – you are an inspiration to everyone!

  10. Pingback: School’s Out Forever! | the void

  11. Magnus says:

    I consider it somewhat ironic that students have chosen to occupy a part of the University that actually makes money for the institution. All events in the Brunei Suite over the next week will have to be cancelled losing SOAS thousands of pounds. When I went down there earlier I also noted that if my organisation had gone ahead with our event then the attendees would have outnumbered the protestors.

    • Maham says:

      The Sultan of Brunei donated the money to SOAS to pay for teaching space and the Brunei suite is only ever used for corporate events. As for your event. . . as you said there is enough space for all 🙂 We are defending education and we cannot do that by occupying teaching space. . . and lets be honest most of the time management will listen to one thing which is monetary pressure, so as soon as management accept our demands, they can go back to making their money. (and yes I mean their because all students in my department are seeing is cuts or “rationalisations” as management like to call them)

      • Maham says:

        by the way . . . brunei suite has been sold by the management to sodexo so our uni isn’t loosing any money 🙂

      • Comment says:

        “by the way . . . brunei suite has been sold by the management to sodexo so our uni isn’t loosing any money ”

        Actually, that’s not true. And JustTheFacts is right, this week you are disrupting academic activity, not external clients.

    • David Aird says:

      Universities are for learning not maximising revenue.


      • JustTheFacts says:

        Actually, the Brunei Suite would have been used by a SOAS academic conference on Tuesday and Wednesday, not a corporate event. Just the facts, ma’am.

  12. Solidarity from the Really Open University!

    We got you guys/girls front page on our site:

  13. ouiarethecrisis says:

    love and solidarity from California. ❤

  14. James D says:

    Solidarity from The City University of New York. Keep up the good work! Occupy Everything. Now!

  15. Solidarity from California.

    Occupy Everything!

  16. theo says:

    Solidarity, thanks and love to all our brothers and sisters fighting the cuts in education. You are giving a lead to us all. Keep occupying and keep it growing.
    Students and school-students united can decide the shape of things to come.

  17. Mono_S. says:

    Good luck to everyone involved, I hope all runs smoothly for you.

    With any luck this will spark off some organised occupations in other Uni’s: The more we can get on board, the stronger the message!

  18. Pingback: SOAS occupied « occupy california

  19. Pingback: SOAS occupied « occupy california « Parents 4 democratic Schools

  20. solidarity from the turkish and kurdish youth organisation YOUNG STRUGGLE! as mentioned, typical SOAS… keep it up!!

  21. Owen says:

    UCL will be out in force on Wednesday.


  22. Patchy says:

    Nice one SOAS students involved in this!

  23. Patchy says:

    … are there any workers in or helping the occupation?

  24. Bhochka says:


  25. chainring says:

    solidarity from UC Davis, California

  26. pistachio says:

    You’ve got the ball rolling two days early, I hope you start a domino train and universities across the country are inspired.
    Proud to be a SOASian
    I hope sambatage are keeping spirits high

    GOOD LUCK and solidarity

  27. Defend LSBU! says:

    Solidarity from South Bank (LSBU). We should all stand together on this.

  28. Cambridge student says:

    Well done. Hope people follow your lead.

  29. Julia says:

    Solid(A)rity from McDaniel College!

  30. Rory says:

    Be excellent to each other and party on dudes.

    Nice work, Sols x

  31. Pingback: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Occupied « take the city

  32. outsider says:

    Keep it up!

  33. Concerned Grad Student says:

    Dear Occupation Junta

    As far as the majority of SOAS students are concerned, the Occupation is a pointless piece of self-indulgence by a minority of self-proclaimed revolutionaries and activists. The merits of the Occupation, however, should be given a fair hearing, so let’s hear some explanation on my comments on the Occupation’s demands, point by point, from those in the know:

    1. No victimisation of participants in this occupation and in previous and future student actions against fees and cuts.

    – This is nothing to do with fighting cuts, but covering yourselves for actions that you know would disrupt lectures and seminars in the area of your occupation, even though the School – in cooperation with the SU – has made very clear its position against occupations. Perhaps facing the consequences of your actions would be a very useful lesson for many of you.

    2. That students who participate in the walk-out organised on the 24th of November are not marked as absent from lectures or tutorials on that day

    – If you are not present in classes, unless in the case of extreme circumstances, then you should be marked absent. People who sleep in, or get stuck on the Tube, and so forth, are marked absent. You have made a conscious choice not to attend your lectures or tutorials. Why should you be a special case? Again, I suggest a useful lesson would be in accepting responsibility for your own choices.

    3. Greater transparency in the School’s budget and in the School’s financial decisions.

    – How many of you are qualified or even capable of examining accounts of an institution the size of SOAS? And even if by some chance one of you can read accounts, what exactly do you intend to do with that information? Are you also qualified as financial consultants who can suggest realistic ways in which expenses can be stream-lined or funds redirected? I think not.

    4. That Paul Webley, SOAS Director, releases a statement openly condemning all cuts to higher education and any rise in tuition fees, and writes to the Government in the form of an open letter asking Vice-Chancellors across the country to unite against all threats to Higher Education.

    – Paul Webley is doing as much as he can in fighting for SOAS’s funding, and against cuts in general. In what way does your occupation of university buildings, disrupting lectures and conferences, listening to Cuban bands, chanting slogans from the School steps, painting pretty banners, and listening to each other repeat the same non-arguments over and over again, assist him in his effort to engage in a rational, substantial, and effective case to preserve SOAS’s funding?

    5. That Paul Webley and SOAS management refuse to budget for the cuts and commit not to raise tuition fees.

    – How exactly do you think budget cuts work? Do you think SOAS has a mint in the basement or a small reserve of natural gas from which it provides its own funds? If the Government cuts funds, SOAS can refuse all they want, but the money will still not come in. If your parents decide to cut off your allowance, and you spend as if you were still receiving their benevolence, then you will very quickly find that you have nothing left at all. Similarly, if the Government cuts funding and SOAS don’t raise tuition fees, where do you suggest they get the money from to make up the difference?

    I don’t claim to have the answers, but you in the Occupation clearly do, so, for the benefit of all SOAS students, let’s here some well-considered answers to the above points. I imagine that they are severely lacking. And even if you do have decent ideas on how, in practical terms, SOAS can present a good case to preserve its funding to a Government intent on cutting it, then perhaps your time would be better spent properly formulating those proposals. At present, you are simply a small but annoyingly angry and itchy pimple on the baby-soft face of our fair School.

    • Maham says:

      I’m tired of justifying the occupation, if you were so against it you should have voted against it at EGM and if you did then accept the democratic decision that led to it. . . however I have now some questions to ask, cause we have been consulting about this for months, where were you when we had open planning meetings to fight the cuts? when we went and occupied BIS? when we went and asked questions about the future of higher education funding to Vince Cable in Twickenham? when we marched down to Tate Britain? what are your options? how should we fight? if you have better solutions come around and we are open to new ideas and suggestions, but it’s easy to sit in the comfort of your room and type away negativity. Constructive criticism I’m happy to take on.

      • Me again says:

        Tired of justifying the occupation, or just don’t have the answers?

        I noticed you have started moderating comments. Is that because too many people were telling you things you didn’t want to hear? You haven’t published my last comment, presumably for that reason.

        You espouse free speech yet censor opinions that you don’t agree with.

        You hypocrite.

  34. Concerned Grad Student says:

    Dear Maham

    What a wonderfully politick answer. What I have or have not done is neither here nor there. Imagine that you are explaining yourselves to a member of the press, or to a student on their year abroad who couldn’t be in London for those things you mention. Please don’t assume that you have accrued some seniority or importance amongst the School’s community by shouting at Vince Cable or walking around Parliament.

    I think my criticism is perfectly constructive. Criticism does not need to provide solutions, but provoke discussion that leads to solutions. Part of constructive criticism, as you should know if you ever attend any of your tutorials, is pointing out the flaws in a particular argument and encouraging thought on whether those flaws are resolvable or not. If the flaws can be resolved through evidence and persuasive argument, then the criticism has been positively constructive. If they cannot, then they have been negatively constructive, and those points require further thought.

    So rather than citing all the rather ineffective things you have done, perhaps you should answer the points, and from there we can see how strong your arguments are. Remember, you are the ones in occupation – you are trying to persuade the majority of students, so the onus is on you to justify your actions. And, your actions are inextricably linked to your demands, which therefore require some justification. To not do so, Maham, is frankly lazy and arrogant.

  35. Casper says:

    Well said. Providing a well thought out alternative should not and cannot be a prerequisite to political action. To argue for the ‘best solution’ is to argue for technocracy of experts at best, a gargantuan monolithic bureaucracy at work. Rules and laws are products of social, political and cultural (not to mention economic) conditions and are not written in stone. Therefore, they are made to be broken, and their breaking allows for their recalibration towards a new situation at worst, and their complete elimination at best. Courses should set their own attendance policies, anyway. The ritual of consecutive activism is, at worst, no less tired than the ritual procedures of ‘management’ employed by his Excellency the Administrator Webley, and since the economic crisis has, according to all tenable sources, no rational or procedural solution, the execution of what might be called ‘magickal practices’ by the occupants of the Sultan’s theater is equally if not more likely to bring about a solution. The important thing about the territories undergoing the process of occupization is not that they establish a logical precedent for their existence, but that they symbolically and unsystematically undermine the so-called logical precedent for any spaces not ungoing such a procedure. England is a Banana Republic, but with less fruit.

  36. Casper says:

    As regards the Academic Conference, the historical persecution of Jews in Arabic lands is all too frequently used to justify the continued occupation of territories and ghettoization of Palestinian Arabs within the hypermilitarized state of Israel. Are these the same folks that held hilariously nationalistic and jingoistic counterprotests during the Gaza war? If so, I’m glad the got evicted, and that’s coming from somebody who identifies as Jewish.

    Jews from Arab Lands

    Tuesday 23 & Wednesday 24 November 2010
    (Tuesday: 9.15am-5pm & Wednesday: 9.30am- 1pm)
    Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS

    Jewish populations inhabited many parts of the Middle East and North Africa from earliest times. Their participation in society, economy, culture and politics was diverse over this history, and followed the transformations of those societies at large. The rise of nationalist and religious political forces, however, coupled with the conflicts over the formation of Israel, led to conflicts and persecutions, which eventually saw the virtual end of the Jewish presence. Please click here for the full programme.

    Admission: £15; £10 for OAPs and LMEI Affiliates; Students Free (to include lunch and refreshments)

  37. Tam says:

    Maham, please do not get exasperated over the naysayers, they are there to distract you. Many of them are happy to follow aimlessly as long as it doesn’t interfere with their diet of mass consumption. Some people can’t/won’t understand in depth that actions such as these have lead to great victories, and woe be unto them, even benefit them.


    Like someone above said, education is a right not a privilege or rather, just for the privileged.

    The system they are proposing will lead to inevitable failure and affect everyone! To all who haven’t read this yet, it’s a must read:

    a former grad student of SOAS

  38. Two points of information: 1) everyone who was at the EGM had to show their SOAS student card to vote, and the vote to occupy was counted twice. 2) The president of ULU is a registered student at SOAS who is on sabbatical.

  39. A SOAS Librarian says:

    There are SOAS Librarians who support you!

  40. Lil' Lil says:

    I’m a student. An older one at that, but nevertheless, a student.

    Surely you must be aware of the stories that are going around the SU? It might be hard for you to understand that not all students want this disruption. I, along with four other students, went over to the occupation and there wasn’t a very large number of people there. That was the moment I began to realise that there are a lot of lies being peddled. If you read the blogs and Twitter, it would make you think that it was some massive presence. But it’s not. It’s not representative. It’s the same old faces.

    We need to fight the cuts, that’s for sure. But the methods being used are questionable. Causing problems for the college is so damaging and only seeks to damage relations within. This has left a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of people but they are scared to speak up.

    I hope that you all think it’s worth it. I just feel sad that my fellow students can’t see the bigger picture about how damaging all this really is.

    • Sianana says:

      Lil’ Lil,

      You are making claims on the basis of the flimsiest evidence: a few minutes spent at the occupation and rumour and gossip in the SU. Hardly the most solid basis for any kind of analysis or argument but perhaps you’re the kind of student who thinks that kind of argumentation will at least scrape you a pass. None of my students are quite so deluded, and I’m immensely proud to see so many of them actively involved in this occupation.

      Even if those students who are involved are the ‘same old faces’ (another baseless claim I’m afraid) all that would be indicative of is the fact that ‘the same old faces’ get the urgency of the situation, understand the value and power of direct action, and have the perseverance and courage to stand up and be counted *yet again* while the rest of you sit back complacently, happy to carp from the sides, whilst likely to benefit from the gains that the protest movement secures.

      And in my view that’s contemptible.


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