University of Sheffield forces through closure of world-renowned archaeology department | #students | #parents


The University of Sheffield has confirmed it will close its renowned archaeology department. Despite widespread local and international revulsion at this act of cultural vandalism, an online petition opposing the closure attracting 45,000 signatures and a campaign by the department’s staff, students, and supporters to keep the department open, management decided to close the department.

On July 13, the University Executive Board (UEB) officially ratified recommendations made by the University’s Senate in the spring that the department cease to exist. Staff numbers have been reduced in the department for years, with only 11 remaining. An unspecified number of staff will be retained, with management proposing they are attached to other university departments to focus on specialist areas of postgraduate study. Undergraduate study will cease.

A protest sign reading “Save Archaeology” on the Sheffield Minalloy House building of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology (Credit: WSWS Media)

The University of Sheffield is one of only seven of the 24 Russell Group universities (the UK’s highest-ranking) with a dedicated archaeology department. Established in 1976, Sheffield archaeology is currently ranked 5th in the UK, and 12th worldwide. Staff are conducting groundbreaking and crucial research and teaching, including valuable work at Stonehenge.

Sheffield’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts said the decision to close the department had been made ‘in the face of challenging external pressures, not least a declining interest in studying archaeology by undergraduates’. No mention was made of how management have deliberately run down the department over a protracted period.

Professor Umberto Albarella, a zooarchaeologist who has been with the department since 2004, asked rhetorically in the local press, “Who is going to go to a department that is going to close?”

Undergraduate courses will be rapidly phased out by university management that is responsible for declining applications, halving the number of staff, raising the entry level qualifications for school leavers and created obstacles to mature students’ access.

Lamberts asserted that archaeology would still be taught at the university ‘through focusing on postgraduate studies’. He added, ‘This decision will ensure that many fantastic projects and the outstanding work our staff and students undertake with partners and communities within the city and far beyond it will continue to enrich our cultural heritage, knowledge of the past and people’s lives.’



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