'Soas is so aware it is good internationally, it has not put so much in locally'

February 10, 2006

Paul Webley is keen to put local links on to Soas's international agenda when he becomes its principal

Paul Webley, deputy vice-chancellor of Exeter University, will take over as principal of the School of Oriental and African Studies on August 1.

The economic psychologist has already decided on some controversial changes. Professor Webley intends to put "local links" on to Soas's international agenda.

He said: "I find it puzzling that things that happen in Soas are talked about in China and the Middle East, while within the UK the institution has a relatively low profile. You would think Soas experts would be more visible than others given the geographical areas they specialise in. But when people mention high-profile institutions, Soas is not included and does not seem to spring to mind.

"The institution has neglected its local image and partnerships. Soas is so aware that it is so good internationally, it has not put so much in locally. That is something I want to change."

Professor Webley said all universities had regional responsibilities. He intends to pursue links with the Bloomsbury Consortium - a group of University of London institutions that shares resources - as well as other UK universities.

Professor Webley, who was at Exeter for 26 years, is a strong supporter of the University of London and said he was keen to maintain Soas's links with the federation. "There are many exciting opportunities ahead, but one of the main reasons I am so excited about taking this job is that it focuses on continents that are global flashpoints, such as Asia and Africa," he said.

"While Soas remains a guardian of specialist knowledge, it is also an important interpreter in an increasingly complex international arena. I look forward to the challenges and rewards of leadership of the school."

Professor Webley will succeed Colin Bundy.

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