SOAS removes BA African Studies from its list of undergraduate degrees

SOAS… as in the… School of Oriental and African Studies?

SOAS, The School of Oriental and African Studies, has recently made the decision to remove its BA African Studies programme from its list of undergraduate degrees, due to “decreasing student numbers”.

SOAS, which is based in London, was one of two universities in the UK to offer the degree. Now it is only available at The University of Birmingham.

However, SOAS insist they are not “abandoning African Studies”, rather that it has become absorbed into their new BA Languages and Cultures undergraduate degree programme.

The decision to absorb African Studies into this degree was to avoid the “othering” of Africa, and avoid it being taught as a “country rather than a continent”. However, MA African Studies is still available for enrolment.

“The degree claims centre stage,” a spokesperson for SOAS told The Tab. “We have very consciously not included a regional specification in the title of the new degree. This is a bold statement that studying an African or Asian language carries the same weight and value as studying European languages – we wanted to break the dichotomy between ‘language study’ and ‘world language study’.”

While SOAS insists that the falling student numbers can also be seen in their South Asia, Southeast Asia and Middle Eastern Studies courses, BA East Asian studies still remains available for application on the website for 2021.

SOAS are also in the process of creating a new degree, Africa and its Diasporas, which they are hoping to launch next year. SOAS lecturer Ida Hadjivayanis said on Twitter today that the course was aiming to “replace the old BA African Studies but it will be much more contemporary.”

A spokesperson for SOAS said: “We’re proud to be the leading institution in the UK for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We retain extensive expertise in African studies and a very high concentration of scholars whose teaching and research focuses on Africa. We are also teaching a range of African languages – many more than any other UK university – including a very strong programme in Swahili, and we believe that language study is essential for our academic success.

“We have dozens of modules throughout our extensive portfolio that focus on Africa. So unlike other institutions where Africa might still be taught as if it is a country rather than a continent, all of our students can pursue African Studies as part of their degrees, in all its geographical, linguistic and cultural diversity.”