Starter for ten: What does SOAS stand for?

TRINITY College Cambridge beat Oxford’s Somerville College to win the grand final of University Challenge last night, but it was in the semi-finals last week that the real controversy lurked. Did you miss it? Ever the bull of a presenter, Jeremy Paxman described the SOAS team as being from the ‘School of Oriental and African Studies’ as read out the final scores.

Who knows what level of rage this caused at the Bloomsbury university, but as the Camden New Journal and West End Extra were clearly informed last month, SOAS doesn’t use those words any more. Its PR department explained when we made the same faux pas: “Just a small note, we no longer refer to ourselves as School of Oriental and African Studies since our rebrand, our correct name is SOAS, University of London.” They provided the bold lettering. We share the note, so others don’t make the same blunder. Presumably, Paxo has now had the same memo so he gets things right for the next series.

As the nameplate changes on the quiz team’s desks, the university hasn’t said why it has shunned its traditional long-hand name, leaving guessers to suggest that ‘oriental’ is a term it wants to leave firm to the past.

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1 Comment on Starter for ten: What does SOAS stand for?

  1. Just a guess, Richard but (a) the institution caught-up with the 1990s fad for initialising names; (b) they needed to get that word “London” in (very strong brandname, London) or (c) practically ever word in the long name was a bit old fashioned … starting with “school”, I imagine. Years ago, I studied at the Royal College of Art, which had branded itself “RCA” then changed its mind, then did it again, and is currently called “Royal College of Art”. No one really noticed or bothered, perhaps because it’s never been on University Challenge.

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