"I am heartbroken and disgusted": The community reacts to the closure of Sheffield University's archaeology department

Students and lecturers have criticised the decision of the University of Sheffield, announced on 13 July, to close it’s archaeology department.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 11:52 am
A rally to save the archaeology department at the University of Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

The University of Sheffield Council resisted pressure from thousands of people in Sheffield and beyond, and went ahead in confirming plans to close the archaeology department, leaving some lecturers and students unsure of their future.

The university said that archaeological teaching and research will continue through integration into other departments.

Bronwen Stone, a PhD archaeology student at the university said: “It’s not good news. They seem to think that by making a couple of modules in other faculties they will be able to maintain archaeology.

PhD Bronwen Stone (left) and lab technician and PhD student Yvette Marks (right) hold up banner showing the number of people who have signed a petition in support of the archaeology department.

“It’s the end for archaeology in terms of the university - it’s not sustainable.

“One of the leaders said it will wither and die.

Students and teachers are upset that their voices have not been heard.

“We’re going to keep fighting, we’re not giving up easily.”

The council meeting in which the final decision was made lasted 13 minutes, and those present had their microphones and cameras turned off by moderators.

Umberto Albarella professor of Zooarchaeology at the university, said: “The whole process has been incompetent, unimpressive and rude

“There was no opportunity to ask questions or raise any points.

“They say they are moving archaeology into another department but they are inconsistent, inconcise and a complete shambles.

The university administration cited a drop in student numbers for archaeology courses as a factor in closing the department.

Umberto said: “To say they have only 10 students in the cohort is manipulation of the worst kind.”

“They spent the last few years discouraging students to come to Sheffield

“If I was an archaeology student the last place I would go is Sheffield.

“Who is going to go to a department that is going to close?

“I feel ignored, trampled on - we have worked our socks off for years doing the job of two people. They have not invested in us.”

When asked if he will look for alternative work following the decision, Umberto said: “I will have to evaluate things very carefully - I have a family to feed.

“I believed in the Sheffield project. I believe that this university was supposed to serve its city and the working class. If I had been asked to work at Cambridge I would have said no.

“But it will be difficult to work with this administration.

“This decision will cover the university in ridicule.”

Sally Rodgers, who works at Heeley City Farm, and on heritage projects across Sheffield, explained that her work is supported by the archaeology department.

She said: “I think my work will be a lot less rich and it’s going to be really difficult.

"Lots of the ways that the department has been supporting the city has been invisible.

“Organisations like mine have been writing in, none of that has been listened to.

“Community heritage gives a connection to where you live in a way that nothing else can.

“This decision has made a mockery of the founding principles of the university. It was founded by the city for the city.

“I am heartbroken and disgusted. It’s been set up to fail for quite a long time.

“The decision is based on money power and not listening to the people of Sheffield.”