Baroness Valerie Amos has been named director of SOAS at the University of London. SOAS was founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies and has since expanded its mission to also focus on Africa and the Middle East.
When she takes office in September, Baroness Amos will be the first Black woman to ever lead a university in the United Kingdom. Since 2010, Amos has served as undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations. Earlier in her career, Baroness Amos was the first black woman to sit in the British cabinet as Secretary of State for International Development. She became Leader of the House of Lords and served as the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Australia.
Born in Guyana, Amos earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Warwick and a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of Birmingham. She was given the title of Baroness Amos of Brondesbury in 1997.
In accepting the post, Baroness Amos said: “With its vast repository of knowledge and expertise on its specialist regions, SOAS is uniquely placed to inform and shape current thinking about the religious, political, cultural, security and economic challenges of our world. There is an interrelated set of issues which need to be addressed to manage growing complexity and the contradictions of greater global connectivity and greater fragmentation. SOAS is a place where I can continue to grow and learn and use the skills, knowledge and experience I have gained over the years.”