The Institute of Latin American Studies ILAS, which is part of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, stands at the very heart of Latin American Studies in the UK. Founded in 1965, over the past six decades the Institute has established an enviable global reputation as a scholarly, cultural and diplomatic knowledge hub. It is home to a world-class research library, provides the editorial and administrative office for the Journal of Latin American Studies, is host to numerous academic events, workshops and conferences, and provides invaluable support to early career scholars through its competitive fellowships and grants schemes.
The threatened closure of both ILAS and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies would not just be a critical blow to the School of Advanced Study, its staff, fellows and alumni, but would also do untold harm to Latin American and Caribbean Studies throughout the UK and further afield.
A petition has been launched on change.org, adressed to to the acting Dean, Professor Jo Fox, firstname.lastname@example.org and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London Professor Wendy Thomson, Vice-Chancellor@london.ac.uk
The petition says, in part, “We fear that this short-sighted and lamentable decision will contribute to job losses in Higher Education institutions across the country who are already struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic whilst deepening the UK’s isolationism in the world in the context of Brexit.”
“We are acutely aware of the importance of establishing strong international links and research interests. Latin American Studies is vital to maintaining these connections. Closing ILAS would be short-sighted and insular at best.
“We are therefore calling for an immediate reversal of this decision.”
Impact on LAB
LAB Chair Nick Caistor has written to the Dean and Vice Chancellor to support the petition. His letter says: “LAB itself has benefited greatly from ILAS’ support: they have provided us with a base for meetings, seminars and book launches and where we meet with, mentor and train volunteers, many of whom go on to academic and journalistic careers; ILAS’ Professor Linda Newson and Dr Ainhoa Montoya are active members of our council of management. We would not have been able to publish over 150 books on Latin America since 1978 without the support of institutions such as ILAS”.
“To close the Institute now seems to LAB to be an error of judgement,” the letter concludes, “particularly at a time when the UK needs to look outwards in search of new partners and areas of interest, and when Latin America continues to be a crucial theatre for the exploration of ideas about society, the environment and economic and political systems.”
Main image: The Senate House, University of London, home to the School of Advanced Studies, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, ILAS and the Senate House Library