Oil and gas equities at the college currently stand at £1.5 million. To implement the divestment plan, an “ethical investment criterion” will be added to its investment policy and gift acceptance guidelines.
In June 2014, Soas agreed to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels and to investigate the possibility of complete divestment.
Paul Webley, director of Soas, said the institution was “proud to become the first university in London to divest, and we hope more universities will follow suit”.
“As the harmful social and environmental impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly clear, these initiatives ensure that Soas is doing all it can to show leadership on this issue,” Professor Webley added.
“This is a historic decision, part of a shifting tide away from fossil fuels that is happening across the world as we speak,” said Julia Christian, a member of Fossil Free Soas, a student-led campaign that has been lobbying for 18 months.
“The fossil fuel industry is a thing of the past. We urge our governments to pay attention to the inspiring divestment campaigns by people young and old at universities, local governments and religious institutions across the world,” she added.
In November last year, leading climate change campaigner Bill McKibben, scholar in residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College, Vermont, accused universities of being “disappointingly slow” at divesting of non-sustainable energy sources.
The University of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry in October 2014, and in January, the University of Bedfordshire followed suit.
Rosaleen Duffy, an expert on the impacts of climate change in Africa in the department of development studies at Soas, said tackling the issue was “vital for sustainable development in Africa, and so it is critical that an institution like Soas takes a lead on divestment”.