Students and staff celebrate the news outside the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK

SOAS, University of London, has announced that it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years, in order to show leadership in the fight against climate change. SOAS is the first university in London to divest and the first to extend an exclusion on fossil fuel companies to its donations policy.

The decision was approved by the School’s Governing Body this afternoon, as the culmination of an 18-month campaign, with the support of over 1,000 students and staff.  In June 2014, SOAS agreed to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels, while the question of divestment was investigated. Oil and gas equities currently stand at £1.5 million.


In order to implement the divestment plan, an ethical investment criterion will be added to SOAS’ Ethical Investment Policy and the School’s Gift Acceptance Form and due diligence procedure for philanthropic gifts will be amended.

Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, said:

“SOAS is proud to become the first university in London to divest and we hope more universities will follow suit. Divestment from fossil fuels will enable SOAS to fulfil its responsibilities as an ethical investor, while continuing to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return. This is in line with SOAS’ commitment to environmental sustainability and an important part of the transition towards renewable energy, which SOAS takes very seriously as an institution. As the harmful social and environmental impacts of climate change becoming increasingly clear, these initiatives ensure that SOAS is doing all it can to show leadership on this issue.”

Professor Rosaleen Duffy, expert on the impacts of climate change in Africa, in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS said:
“SOAS’ decision to divest today shows vital leadership in the fight against climate change. Climate change will deepen global inequalities, as the richest produce the greatest share of emissions while the poorest have to cope with its greatest burdens. Africa in particular will be hit the hardest, with severe impacts on food security and poverty. Public institutions like SOAS have a moral duty to put a stop to this and push for a transition to renewables. I look forward to other universities across the UK following suit.”  
Julia Christian, Fossil Free SOAS campaign member, said:
“We are so proud to be SOAS students, staff and alumni today. This is a historic decision, part of a shifting tide away fossil fuels that is happening across the world as we speak.  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, and put all our weight towards shifting to the renewable energy future we need.”
Andrew Taylor, Campaigns Manager at People & Planet, which supports university divestment campaigns across the UK said:
“If you are interested in studying environmental or social justice issues at a university that definitely won’t be investing your fees in wrecking the climate, then SOAS must now be one of the top places to do it. Universities that continue to say no to divestment are eroding their legitimacy to teach about sustainability.”