SOAS, University of London
|SOAS, University of London|
Arms of SOAS
|Motto||Knowledge is Power|
|Chancellor||HRH The Princess Royal (University of London)|
|President||Graça Machel OBE|
|Director||Professor Paul Webley|
|Pro-Directors||Professor Graham Furniss, Professor Nirmala Rao OBE|
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Mascot||Arabian Camel and Asian Elephant|
|Affiliations||University of London
SOAS, University of London (originally short for School of Oriental and African Studies; commonly known as SOAS (// SOH-as)) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom. It specialises in humanities, languages and social sciences relating to Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and is a constituent college of the University of London. It offers around 350 undergraduate Bachelor's degree combinations, and over 100 one-year intensively taught Master's degrees. MPhil and PhD research degrees are also available in every academic department.
Founded in 1916, SOAS has produced several heads of state, government ministers, ambassadors, Supreme Court judges, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and many other notable leaders in emerging markets, future superpowers and in the Next Eleven. Located in the heart of Bloomsbury in central London, SOAS describes itself as the "world's leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East", and is consistently ranked amongst the top universities in the UK.
SOAS was founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies at 2 Finsbury Circus, London, England, the then premises of the London Institution. The School received its Royal Charter on 5 June 1916; admitted its first batch of students on 18 January; and was formally inaugurated by King George V in the presence of The Earl Curzon of Kedleston, a former Viceroy of India, among other cabinet officials just a month later on 23 February 1917.
The founding mission was to provide the University of London with a rival to the famous Oriental schools of Berlin, Petrograd and Paris, and advance British dominance in scholarship, science and commerce in Africa and Asia. The institution forthwith became integral in training British administrators, colonial officials and spies for overseas postings across the British Empire. Africa was added to the school's name in 1938 and it became known as the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Second World War
For sometime in the mid-1930s, prior to moving to its current location at Thornhaugh Street, Bloomsbury, the School was located at Vandon House, Vandon Street, London SW1, with the library located at Clarence House. Its move to new premises in Bloomsbury was held up by delays in construction and the half-completed building took a hit during the Blitz in September 1940. With the onset of the Second World War, many University of London colleges were evacuated from London in 1939 and billeted on universities all over the provinces. The School was, on the Government's advice, transferred to Christ's College, Cambridge.
In 1940, when it became apparent that a return to London was possible, the School returned to the city and was temporarily housed for some months in eleven rooms at Broadway Court, 8 Broadway, London SW1. In 1942, the War Office joined with the school's Japanese department to help alleviate the shortage in Japanese linguists. State scholarships were offered to select grammar and public school boys to train as military translators and intelligence officers. Lodged at Dulwich College in south London, the students became affectionately known as the Dulwich boys.
1945 to present
In recognition of SOAS's role during the war, the 1946 Scarborough Commission report recommended a major expansion in provision for the study of Asia and the school benefited greatly from the subsequent largesse. Growth however was curtailed by following years of economic austerity, and upon Sir Cyril Philips assuming the directorship in 1956, the school was in a vulnerable state. Over his twenty year stewardship, Phillips transformed the school, raising funds and broadening the school's remit, to make it the unrivalled centre of a national expansion in the fields of Africa and Asia.
Since its establishment the school has grown into one of the world's most notable centres for the exclusive study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A constituent college of the University of London, the School's fields include Law, Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages with special reference to Asia and Africa. The SOAS Library, located in the Philips Building is the UK's national resource for materials relating to Asia and Africa and is the largest of its kind in Europe. The School has grown considerably over the past thirty years, from fewer than 1,000 students in the 1970s to more than 6,000 students today, nearly half of them postgraduates. SOAS is partnered with the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris which is often considered the French equivalent of SOAS.
In 2011, the Privy Council approved changes to the School's Charter allowing it to award degrees in its own name, following the trend set by fellow colleges the London School of Economics, University College London and King's College London. All new students registered from September 2013 will qualify for a SOAS, University of London award.
In 2012, SOAS's name was formally changed from the "School of Oriental and African Studies" to "SOAS, University of London" as part of a major rebranding exercise. The SOAS tree symbol, first implemented in 1989, was redrawn and recoloured in gold, with the new symbol incorporating the leaves of ten trees, including the English Oak representing England; the Bodhi, Coral Bark Maple, Teak representing Asia; the Mountain Acacia, African Pear, Lasiodiscus representing Africa; and the Date Palm, Pomegranate and Ghaf representing the Middle East. The new name was chosen to provide greater consistency; to offer flexibility for the future; and to address perceived issues with the name "School of Oriental and African Studies", such as that in some countries the word "school" is not associated with higher education, possible negative connotations of the word "Oriental", and the absence of an explicit mention of the Middle East.
SOAS is currently divided into two campuses within ten minutes walk of each other.
The main campus known as the Russell Square campus is located in the Bloomsbury area of central London, close to Russell Square. It includes College Buildings (the Philips Building and the Old Building), Brunei Gallery, Faber Building (23-24 Russell Square) and 21-22 Russell Square. The SOAS library designed by Sir Denys Lasdun in 1973 is located in the Philips Building. The nearest Underground station is Russell Square tube station.
The Vernon Square campus in Islington, opened in 2001, is close to King's Cross railway station and only a few hundred yards from Dinwiddy House and Paul Robeson House halls of residence. The Ritsumeikan Trust opened its U.K. Office at the Vernon Square campus in 2010.
At its main campus the school houses the Brunei Gallery, built from an endowment from the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, and inaugurated by the Princess Royal, as Chancellor of the University of London, on 22 November 1995. Its facilities include exhibition space on three floors, a book shop, a lecture theatre, and conference and teaching facilities. The Brunei Gallery hosts a programme of changing contemporary and historical exhibitions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East with the aim to present and promote cultures from these regions. The new Foyle Special Collections Gallery includes the permanent display of Objects of Instruction: Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies, the contents of which are periodically rotated.
The Japanese style roof garden on top of the Brunei Gallery was built during the Japan 2001 celebrations and was officially opened by the sponsor, Haruhisa Handa, an Honorary Fellow of the School, on 13 November 2001. The garden is dedicated to Forgiveness, which is the meaning of the kanji character engraved on the garden's granite water basin. Peter Swift, a designer with experience of adapting Japanese garden design principles to the British environment and climate, conceived the garden as a place of quiet contemplation and meditation as well as a functional space complementary to the Gallery and its artistic activities.
The school also hosted the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, one of the foremost collections of Chinese ceramics in Europe. The collection has been loaned to and is now on permanent display in Room 95 of the British Museum.
The SOAS Centenary Masterplan conceives of the development of two new buildings, and a substantial remodelling of existing space to realign and develop the entrance and two areas within the Old Building. The cost estimates for the Centenary Masterplan settle at around £73m for the total project. The full implementation of the School's Centenary Masterplan will deliver approximately 30% additional space, approximately 1,000 sq metres. In January 2012 it was announced that SOAS had been granted preferred bidder status for the Senate House North Block. This is the first step towards SOAS moving towards a single-site campus in the heart of Bloomsbury in 2015. Moving to Senate House North Block will bring many benefits for staff and students, including new state-of-the-art research, teaching and student facilities, all in one precinct.
SOAS is world famous as a "leading centre for the study of a highly diverse range of subjects concerned with Asia, Africa and the Middle East." It trains government officials on secondment from around the world in Asian, African and Middle Eastern languages and area studies, particularly in Arabic & Islamic Studies - which combined with Hebrew formed the major bulk of classical Oriental Studies in Europe - and Mandarin Chinese. It also acts as a consultant to several government departments and to companies such as Accenture and Deloitte – when they seek to gain specialist knowledge of the matters concerning Asia, Africa and the Middle East. However, SOAS also offers a range of degrees in less traditional and text-based subjects, such as Development Studies and Middle East Politics, within which students can learn a foreign language ab intitio.
The school is made up of nineteen departments across three faculties: Arts and Humanities, Languages and Cultures, and Law and Social Sciences. The School is also highly regarded for its focus on small group teaching with a student-staff ratio of only 11:1 and some departments 6:1.
The SOAS library, cited as the jewel in the School's crown, has been lauded as the leading national library for Asian, African and Middle Eastern studies, comparable only to the British Library. It houses more than 1.2 million volumes and extensive electronic resources for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and attracts scholars from all over the world. The library is also one of the UK's five National Research Libraries. The library is currently undergoing a £12 million modernisation and enlargement programme (known as 'the Library Transformation Project') that aims to increase capacity and create new student study spaces.
The library is housed in the Philips Building on the Russell Square campus and was built in 1973. It was designed by architect Sir Denys Lasdun who also designed some of Britain's most famous brutalist buildings such as the National Theatre and the Institute of Education.
As a constituent college of the University of London, students at SOAS also have access to Senate House Library, shared by other colleges such as London School of Economics and University College London, which is located just a short walk from the Russell Square campus.
Department of Linguistics
The SOAS Department of Linguistics was the first ever linguistics department in United Kingdom, founded in 1932 as a centre for research and study in Oriental and African languages. J. R. Firth, known internationally for his original work in phonology and semantics, was Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor of General Linguistics at the school between 1938 and 1956.
|The Sunday Times
Although it is debatable whether University League Tables can accurately compare the quality of small specialised research institutions such as SOAS to general universities with tens of thousands of students and departments in nearly every academic discipline, or even to other specialised institutes with completely different kinds of focuses, in 2005, SOAS placed 4th among United Kingdom universities in a Guardian poll. In the subject tables of this poll, SOAS was placed 3rd for Anthropology, 4th for Economics, 3rd for History and History of Art, 6th for Law, 5th for Music, 3rd for Politics, and 3rd for Theology and Religious Studies. The History Department obtained a rare 6 research rating in the last government assessment, placing it as only one of three departments in the country to achieve such a status. SOAS currently features at 51st for Languages and 52nd for Arts & Humanities in the world's top Universities, according to the QS World University Rankings.
SOAS' Department of Financial and Management Studies (DeFiMS) is ranked in the top-ten for Business Studies in the 2013 Complete University Guide's League Table. The research strength of the department has been previously recognised by the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) where 90 per cent was rated as internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world leading quality.
The results of the 2008 United Kingdom RAE took the form of profiles spread across four grade levels. Hence, there are different ways to present them and to rank the departments. In their published tables, the Times Higher and the Guardian Education chose to use an average of the profile or GPA (Grade Point Average); both rankings placed the SOAS Department of Anthropology equal second, ranking just behind Cambridge with LSE. This is a particularly significant achievement given that SOAS is the only top-ranked department to specialize, more or less exclusively, in the peoples and diasporas of Africa, Asia and the Near and Middle East. According to the 2008 United Kingdom Research Assessment Exercise, SOAS is the national leader in the study of Asia.
SOAS boasts an intimate and cosmopolitan student body. In 2012, there were 5,235 students, 41% were mature students over 21, and 60% were female. According to the QS World University Rankings, SOAS also has the 9th highest percentage of international students in the world at 43%.
The SOAS Students' Union is a vibrant and visible aspect of campus life. The diversity of the student body is reflected in the wide range of societies offered each year. SOAS is renowned for its political scene and radical politics, and was voted the most politically active university in the UK in the Which?University 2012. Recent campaigns include students for social change, women's liberty and justice for cleaners.
Located in the heart of Bloomsbury, students are minutes from the British Museum, British Library, University of London Union and the nightlife of the West End. The collegiate atmosphere of the area is enhanced by the presence of many University of London schools and institutes close by, including Birkbeck, the Institute of Education, London Business School, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Royal Veterinary College, the School of Advanced Study, Senate House Library and University College London.
SOAS operates two halls of residence in central London, both owned by Shaftesbury Student Housing. The primary accommodation for undergraduates is Dinwiddy House which is located on the Pentonville Road. This contains 510 single en-suit rooms arranged in small cluster flats of around six rooms each. The halls are located within minutes of King's Cross St. Pancras tube station and the Vernon Square campus.
A few minutes walk from Dinwiddy House and also on the Pentonville Road is Paul Robeson House, the second halls of residence. This was opened in 1998, and is named after the African American musician Paul Robeson who studied at SOAS. This accommodation is occupied by postgraduate students, and those attending the international SOAS Summer schools.
SOAS students are also eligible to apply for places in the University of London intercollegiate halls of residence. The majority of these are based in Bloomsbury such as Canterbury Hall, Commonwealth Hall, College Hall, Connaught Hall, Hughes Parry Hall and International Hall, whilst further afield are Nutford House in Marble Arch and Lillian Penson Hall in Paddington.
Since its foundation, the School has had eight directors. The inaugural director was the celebrated linguist Sir Edward Denison Ross. Under the stewardship of Sir Cyril Philips, the School saw considerable growth and modernisation, thus consolidating its status as a leading university. Under Colin Bundy in the 2000s, despite its still modest size, the School saw its reputation soar, becoming one of the top ranked universities both domestically and internationally. The current Director is Paul Webley.
|1916||Sir Edward Denison Ross|
|1937||Sir Ralph Lilley Turner|
|1956||Sir Cyril Philips|
|1976||Sir Jeremy Cowan|
|1989||Sir Michael McWilliam|
|1996||Sir Tim Lankester|
SOAS has many notable alumni in positions of authority around the world, reflecting its status and its international remit. They include:
- Sultan Salahuddin, King of Malaysia 1999–2001
- Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway
- Anthony Brooke, Rajah Muda of Sarawak
- Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este
- Princess Muzna bint Ghalib Al Qu'aiti
- Princess Wijdan Ali of Jordan
Government and politics
- Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Member of the Burmese Parliament
- Francis K. Butagira, Ugandan diplomat
- Hugh Carless, diplomat, explorer
- Johnnie Carson, US politician, diplomat
- Hüseyin Çelik, Turkish politician
- Kraisak Choonhavan, Former Senator in the Senate of Thailand
- Herbert Chitepo First Black Rhodesian Barrister
- Luisa Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique
- Bülent Ecevit, Prime Minister of Turkey
- Femi Fani-Kayode, Nigerian politician
- Sir Leslie Fielding, British diplomat
- Baroness Flather, Conservative politician
- Varun Gandhi, Indian Member of Parliament and General Secretary of BJP
- Lord Hannay of Chiswick, diplomat
- Lord Jay of Ewelme, civil servant
- Jemima Khan, UK Ambassador to UNICEF
- Idris Kutigi, Nigerian Chief Justice
- David Lammy, British politician
- Gunapala Malalasekera, Sri Lankan diplomat and academic
- Emma McCune, British foreign aid worker
- Sir Robin McLaren, diplomat
- John Atta Mills, President of Ghana
- Dan Mokonyane, South African activist
- Maajid Nawaz, co-founder and Executive Director of Quilliam (think tank)
- Samia Nkrumah, Ghanaian Member of Parliament
- Sylvester Umaru Onu, Judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
- Aaron Mike Oquaye, Ghanaian politician
- Amal Pepple, Nigerian politician, civil servant
- Enoch Powell, British politician
- Quinton Quayle, British diplomat
- Sir Shridath Ramphal, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth
- Walter Rodney, historian and Guyanese political activist
- Gita Sahgal, writer and journalist, film director, and human rights activist
- Alan Senitt, political activist for homosexual rights
- Ivor Stanbrook, British parliamentarian and diplomat
- Hassan Taqizadeh, Member of Iranian Parliament and Diplomat
- Sir John Vinelott, lawyer and judge
- Sir Harold Walker, British diplomat
- Sir David Warren, UK Ambassador to Japan
- Sir Michael Weir, British diplomat
- Sir Ray Whitney, British diplomat, politician
- Lord Williams of Baglan, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
- Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, Governor of Hong Kong
- Tim Yeo, Conservative politician
- Sir Edward Youde, Governor of Hong Kong
- Abdel Bari Atwan, Journalist, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper in London
- Eyad Abu Shakra, Managing Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London
- Zeinab Badawi, Journalist & presenter, BBC World News Today
- Fatima Bhutto, author and journalist
- Martin Bright, journalist, political editor of the Jewish Chronicle
- Jung Chang, writer
- Chris Crudelli, Author & BBC Television Broadcaster
- Hossein Derakhshan, Iranian blogger credited with starting the blogging revolution in Iran, now a political prisoner
- Jamal Elshayyal, news producer at Al Jazeera English
- Ghida Fakhry, journalist and news anchor at Al Jazeera English
- Faris Glubb, son of Glubb Pasha, activist, author and journalist
- James Harding, journalist, former editor of The Times
- Aidan Hartley, author and journalist
- Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News correspondent and columnist for the New Statesman.
- Dom Joly, television comedian and journalist
- Sabiha Al Khemir, Tunisian writer and expert in Islamic art
- Clive King author
- Richard Mason, novelist
- Khyentse Norbu, film-maker and Tibetan Buddhist Lama
- Taimur Rahman, Member CentComm Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party
- Andrew Robinson, author and journalist
- Saira Shah, journalist and film-maker
- Freya Stark, travel writer
- Sherine Tadros, al Jazeera English correspondent
- Sufiah Yusof, mathematics prodigy
- Mario Aguilar, Oromo scholar and theologian
- Akbar Ahmed, world-renowned author, diplomat and scholar of contemporary Islam
- Ali Ansari, historian, Iran expert, professor
- Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, philosopher
- Adnan Al-Bakhit, Jordanian historian, founder and former president Al-Beit University
- Issa J. Boullata, Arabic literature & Qur'anic studies,
- Urvashi Butalia, historian, feminist, founder and director of Kali for Women
- Gus Casely-Hayford, curator, cultural historian
- K.N. Chaudhuri, historian, author, creative writer, and graphic artist
- George N. Clements, linguist,
- Simon Digby, oriental scholar
- Frank Dikötter, Dutch historian
- Ronald P. Dore, sociologist
- Diana L. Eck, comparative religion and Indian Studies
- Antony Flew, philosopher
- Wang Gungwu, Chinese historian
- Fred Halliday, historian, international relations
- Ian Hancock, linguist and Romani scholar
- Sir Martin Harris, educationalist
- Anthony Hyman, academic, writer and Islamicist
- Robert Graham Irwin, historian and writer on Arabic literature
- Marsden Jones, Islamic scholar
- Samten Karmay, Tibetologist, expert on Bon religion, CNRS
- Kusuma Karunaratne, Sinhalese language and literature
- Nick Knight, Professor of Asian Studies
- Gregory B. Lee, Chinese studies
- Bernard Lewis, Islamic scholar
- Martin Lings, English Muslim scholar and author
- Michael Loewe, sinologist
- Duncan McCargo, Southeast Asian Politics
- Ian Nish, Japanese studies
- Farish Noor, academic, historian specialised in Southeast Asian region
- Martin Orwin, author, scholar, and poet
- Ben Pimlott, historian, biographer
- James R. Russell, Armenian Studies
- Kamal Salibi, Lebanese historian and professor
- Tsering Shakya historian and Tibetologist
- Ram Sharan Sharma historian of Ancient India
- Alireza Shapour Shahbazi, Persian archaeologist
- Ninian Smart, religious studies
- Patrick Sookhdeo, theologian and Anglican canon
- Romila Thapar, Indian historian
- Thomas Trautmann, historian
- Konrad Tuchscherer, historian
- Than Tun, historian of Burma
- Giles Ji Ungpakorn, former university lecturer at Chulalongkorn University
- Ivan van Sertima, historian, professor and anthropologist
- William Montgomery Watt, historian and Islamic scholar
- Timothy J. Winter, aka Abdul Hakim Murad, Islamic scholar, author and teacher
- Ehsan Yarshater, Iranian studies
- Rosemarie Said Zahlan, historian, writer on the Persian Gulf states
Music and the arts
- Khyam Allami, musician, oud player
- M. K. Asante, Jr., writer and filmmaker
- Thurston Clarke, writer
- Raman Mundair, writer, artist, poet and playwright
- Olu Oguibe, artist and academic
- Derwin Panda, musician and producer
- Paul Robeson, musician, writer and civil rights activist
- Himanshu Suri aka 'Heems', rapper, member of Das Racist
- Gareth Williams, musician, member of This Heat
- Cheng Yu, musician
- Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Fourth Supreme Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
- Maurice Noël Léon Couve de Murville, Archbishop of Birmingham 1982–99
- Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue 2002–2006, Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt
- Andrew Bertie, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and distant relative of Queen Elizabeth II.
- David Young, Bishop of Ripon 1977–1999
- Hammalawa Saddhatissa, Buddhist Monk of Sri Lanka
- Miles Fitzalan-Howard, 17th Duke of Norfolk, British Army officer
- Sir Hamish Forbes, Bt, British Army officer
- Abdulsalam Haykal, CEO of Transtek Systems, CEO of Haykal Media, publisher of Aliqtisadi, and Forward Magazine
- Sir Peter Parker, chairman of the British Railways Board
- Atiur Rahman, Governor of Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of the country.
- Sir Dermot de Trafford, Bt, banker, businessman and aristocrat
Notable faculty and staff
Faculty of Law and Social Sciences
- Gilbert Achcar, Globalisation
- Malcolm Caldwell, Southeast Asian Economic History
- Ben Fine, Economics
- Mushtaq Khan, Economics
- Laleh Khalili, Middle East Politics
- Philip Stott, Biogeography
- Charles R. H. Tripp, Middle East Politics
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
- Nelida Fuccaro, Middle Eastern History
- Arthur Llewellyn Basham, Indian History
- K.N. Chaudhuri, Indian History
- Michael Cook, Islamic History
- Patricia Crone, Islamic History
- Lucy Duran, African Music
- Gerald Hawting, History of the Near Middle East
- Jung Chang, writer and historian, author of Wild Swans
- Nasser David Khalili, Islamic Art
- Roland Oliver, African History
- Alexander Piatigorsky, History of South Asia
- Timon Screech, Japanese art, architecture and history
- Charles R. H. Tripp, Middle East History
- John Wansbrough, Islamic History
Faculty of Languages and Cultures
- Muhammad Abdel-Haleem, Islamic Studies
- Shirin Akiner, Central Asian Studies
- David Appleyard, Languages of the Horn of Africa
- Arthur John Arberry, Persian Studies
- Charles Bawden, Mongolian Studies
- Mary Boyce, Iranian Studies
- John Rupert Firth, Linguistics
- Sir Hamilton Gibb, Orientalist
- Angus Charles Graham, Classical Chinese
- Alfred Guillaume, Islamic Studies
- Walter Bruno Henning, Iranian Studies
- Michel Hockx, China and Inner Asia Studies
- Reginald Johnston, Chinese language and literature
- Hugh N. Kennedy, Arabic
- Ann Lambton, Iranian Studies
- Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Indian religion
- Patrick Geoffrey O'Neill, Japanese
- Vladimir Minorsky, Iranian Studies
- David Marshall Lang, Caucasian Studies
- Bernard Lewis, Middle East Studies
- Tudor Parfitt Modern Jewish Studies
- Xiao Qian, China and Inner Asia Studies
- William Radice, Bengali language and literature
- Ralph Russell, Urdu language and literature
- Christopher Shackle, Languages and Cultures of Northwest India
- Nicholas Sims-Williams, Iranian and Central Asian Studies
- David Snellgrove, Tibetan Studies
- Arthur Stanley Tritton, Arabic language and literature
- Paul Thompson, Classical Chinese
- Edward Ullendorff, Ethiopian Studies and Semitic Languages
- Arthur Waley, Japan & China Studies
- Richard Olaf Winstedt, Malay language and literature
- Gordon Innes, East African Languages
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