Supporters protest in last bid to save University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology

Scores of people have turned up at a rally in support of University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology as its future hangs in balance following an institutional review.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 1:51 pm

The decision - which is expected to be announced today by the university's executive board - will see a possible closure of the renowned institution that has produced a significant number of archaeologists and researchers all over the world.

The rally, which was held in front of the Student Union building on Firth Court, saw students, teaching staff and members of the public voicing their displeasure, in their last bid to save the department.

One of the teaching staff members, Professor Umberto Albarella who spoke at the protest said they were kept in the dark about today's decision.

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

"To be honest with you, we really have no idea. We haven't tried to figure out what's going on in their minds about the outcome.

"We are now just focusing on ourselves and focusing on our campaign," he said.

The university is currently considering three options, including a complete closure of the department.

The three options are to invest in the department with new posts and the development of new programmes and second, to close the department but to honour commitments to existing students.

A woman holding up a placard in support of the first option, which is to invest in the department.

The third option is to retain Archaeology as a discipline but not as a department where key programmes will be retained but realigned to other departments in the university along with associated staff while commitments to existing students would still be honoured.

Many are now calling for the university to choose the first option.

International post-graduate students from China, who continued their studies in Archaeology since last October said they would be upset if the department was to close.

Yiqi Shen, 24 said: “I’d feel very upset because this is our department, I think our study will be influenced a little bit. I really love archaeology and this is the reason why I’m here.

International post-graduate students from China, Yiqi Shen (left) and Yu Wang.

"I really want to be part of this department for a long time.”

Yu Wang, 26 agreed, saying: “The Department of Archaeology is very famous in the country and all over the world. This is making me so upset, and I don’t think this is a correct decision to close it down.”

The possible closure has also faced a strong objection from Derbyshire County Council Leader Cllr Barry Lewis, who holds an MA in Archaeology and Heritage.

In a letter sent to the university, he wrote: “It is with great concern and sadness that I learn of the proposals to potentially close the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology.

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

“The Archaeology Department has an enviable and longstanding reputation as one of the best in the UK, principally earned through its unrivalled contribution to prehistoric research on both the UK and world scale over a number of decades.”

He said skilled archaeologists are currently in high demand due to the pace of development and redevelopment, and the delivery of major infrastructure projects such as HS2.

“The skills of Sheffield graduates have long been in demand within the commercial sphere because of their strong grounding in both archaeological theory and practice, and they are represented in large numbers at all levels of the archaeological profession both locally and further afield.”

The university has not responded to media enquiries.