Soas's Far-East failing

August 26, 2005

The decision by the School of Oriental and African Studies this week to sack its senior specialist subject librarians for China and Japan represents a degrading of a resource built up over many years.

The justification given is that the work of these specialists can be done by junior regional experts in consultation with a senior non-expert as is common in other libraries.

At a time when the Higher Education Funding Council for England is recommending significant investment in Chinese and Japanese studies to build national capacity, and when Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol universities have all invested in developing Chinese studies, the degrading of Soas's capacity makes no sense. It reflects badly on its long-held and richly deserved reputation in these areas and will damage its ability to maintain that excellence.

Robert Bickers
Bristol University

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