University of Sheffield Council agree to close archaeology department

The University of Sheffield Council agreed to close the department of archaeology, citing low intake, but maintained that archaeological teaching would still continue.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 5:08 pm
Dept of Archaeology rally at Sheffield University's Firth Court. Picture Scott Merrylees

The university has said that it will maintain archaeological teaching and research through an alignment with other departments, rather than maintaining the department of archaeology.

The decision was agreed on 12 July, at a University council meeting. Campaigners sought to pressure the university to keep the department running, and a petition in support of the department gained almost over 46,000 signatures.

A statement from the university said: “A recommendation to retain archaeological teaching and research at the University of Sheffield was agreed on Monday evening.

A rally to save the archaeology department at the University of Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

“The discipline will continue to be taught and researched at Sheffield through being aligned with other departments within the University instead of continuing as a separate department.

“This approach will see the University continue to develop and invest in archaeological research, knowledge exchange, teaching and learning.

It will continue to collaborate with other universities, and work with partners and communities on projects and important cultural heritage work across the city and beyond it.

“The University's Executive Board (UEB) made the recommendation in the face of challenging external pressures, not least a declining interest in studying archaeology by undergraduates, a trend which has been experienced by many leading universities over the past five years. It believes archaeology teaching and research can thrive at Sheffield through focusing on key areas of excellence, and teaching and research at postgraduate level.

Dept of Archaeology rally at Sheffield University's Firth Court. Picture Scott Merrylees

“The University’s Council met on Monday evening to discuss the recommendation which had been made following a review which the UEB had initiated. The review included three potential options: to support proposals for investment put forward by the department; to close the department; to retain key areas of strength in archaeological research and teaching by aligning them with other parts of the University.

“An Implementation Group will now consider the views of staff and students as it develops detailed proposals on the areas of key teaching and research strength that will be retained, where they are best aligned, and the support and investment needed to ensure they thrive.

“The Department of Archaeology has 11 teaching and research posts. For undergraduate courses the University currently has fewer than 10 firm offer holders for the academic year 2021-22.

“The University will ensure that its students will continue to receive high quality teaching, research supervision and support for the duration of their studies and is committed to following the processes outlined in its student protection plan.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The University is determined to secure the future of archaeology in Sheffield in the face of a very challenging external environment which has seen a significant decline in the number of students choosing to read archaeology, as has been experienced by many other leading universities.

“The decision by University Council to ratify the Board’s recommended course of action, following a review of the Department of Archaeology, does not alter the outcome that archaeology will continue to be taught and researched in Sheffield.

“Not only will we maintain and support archaeology at the University, we will work with our colleagues and partners to ensure it thrives through focusing on postgraduate studies and investing in key areas of excellence which have contributed to Sheffield’s reputation as a top 100 global university with world-leading research and innovation.

“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.

“We will continue to support our staff and students through this process, and will work with them collaboratively as we consider how to take the recommendation forward.”