The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies notes with deep concern the recently announced plans to close the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS), both located within the School of Advanced Study, University of London. ICwS, created in 1949, is the only postgraduate academic institution in the UK devoted specifically to the study of the Commonwealth. ILAS, founded in 1965, is one of the five original Parry Centres (including Oxford’s own Latin American Centre) launched to develop Latin American studies in the UK. The threat of closure of these two outstanding institutions, combined with the ongoing financial difficulties faced by the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), amounts to an alarming trend that threatens the very survival of area studies within the University of London—and by extension, the United Kingdom.
As a strong supporter of language-based area studies (LBAS), OSGA deplores the evidently declining commitment to contextually sensitive understanding of world regions. In a post-Brexit United Kingdom, wherein the country intends to reposition itself as ‘Global Britain’, knowledge of global histories and deep regional expertise should be more important than ever before. Unfortunately, trends in university administration and funding are clearly undermining the UK’s preparation for a truly global 21st century.
With deep admiration for SOAS, ILAS, and ICwS, the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies urges decision makers throughout the University of London to reconsider harmful policies that are depriving future generations of badly needed expertise. In reaffirming our commitment to interdisciplinary area studies, we extend our solidarity to our area studies colleagues throughout the University of London.