Sheffield University chiefs 'ignored' secret donor's £200,000 offer to keep doomed archaeology department open

Sheffield University chiefs ignored a £200,000 offer from a secret donor to save its doomed archaeology department open, it is claimed

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 3:50 pm

The news that the University of Sheffield archaeological department is set to close despite mass protests prompted an anonymous donor to offer £200,000 to help keep it open, says a professor.

But staff at the department say university bosses have not even acknowledged the offer, despite writing to them.

Professor Umberto Albarella said: “The strength of feelings regarding the absurd proposed closure of our department can be exemplified by the outrage of a secret donor, who promised us £200,000 if the university kept the department open. I wrote to the Vice Chancellor and University Executive Board about this, but have had no reply.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology is facing an indefinite closure following an institutional review
University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology is facing an indefinite closure following an institutional review

He added: "The donor obviously has no control over what the university does. This is just a kind man who is offering a hand. We are very much in touch with this person and he is carrying on offering his support."Clearly the whole thing can’t change because of a kind donor, but my view is that it is symbolic of the kind of response that the university’s position has generated at the minute. People just can’t believe that the university is prepared to implement such an act of cultural vandalism."In the context of the overall university finances £200,000 is nothing but for the department, unfortunately due to the constant erosion over the last 12 years we have become a quite small department."Obviously this is a sum of money which is very useful."

He said the offer was made before the University Executive Board made its decision that the department should be closed with "key areas of strength" moved to other departments.

Prof Albarella said the university had not provided a clear and articulate reason why the department should be closed and as such it was difficult to know what actions might generate a change.

“It looks at the moment like they are just entrenched int their position and it seems that there is no international outcry or money or reasoning making any difference to their view,” he said.

He added: “The lack of a reply to this letter is just part of a pattern. In a way I wasn’t expecting a reply because of what I have seen before. We have received about 1,700 messages of solidarity and most of them have been sent to the university executive board and the VC so they have been absolutely swamped but they have never even acknowledged that they have received them.”

Concerns have been raised globally about the loss of the world renowned department.

He said; “People can’t believe it as we are very well known all around the world for our work. I have heard that some of the regular donors to the university are reconsidering their positions.”

The department closure is due to be considered by the University Senate on June 23 before a final decision is taken by the University Council on July 12.

Staff have vowed to keep fighting for the survival of the department and are planning another rally on the university campus.

Prof Albarella added: “We carry on fighting to the bitter end. We are not going to give up decades of hard work, dedication and love.”