My alma mater, The School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), enjoys a reputation disproportionate to its size. With fewer than 7,000 students, it is dwarfed by other the colleges of the University of London. Nevertheless, I find that any mention of where I studied tends to raise eyebrows: 'oh I’ve heard a lot of stories about Soas' a bank advisor told me recently. I replied that the stories were probably true. When it comes to Soas, they usually are.
The university has come a long way since its founding in 1916. Its original function was as a finishing school for colonial officers, described by Lord Curzon as part of the 'furniture of empire'. It specialised then, just as it does now, in the culture and languages of Africa and Asia, with a particular emphasis on anthropology, my own discipline.