University of Sheffield justifies closure of Department of Archaeology

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University of Sheffield's Executive Board, who had proposed the closure of the Department of Archaeology that triggered nationwide outrage, assured the public that they will ensure affected students continue to receive high quality teaching.

In an emailed statement, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield Professor Koen Lamberts said the department is facing "multiple challenges", including a significant reduction in undergraduate student numbers.

He said: "I understand that the review into the Department has caused concern, but I would like to reassure you that the University Executive Board (UEB) absolutely recognises the value of arts and humanities subjects, both within the Faculty and across the whole University.

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"We understand fully the value of archaeology and we recognise the Department’s historic reputation.

University of Sheffield's Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology
University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology

"However, UEB is clear that we cannot ignore the fact that the Department is facing multiple challenges, including a difficult external environment and a significant reduction in undergraduate student numbers, and that action needs to be taken to address these."

He said the UEB has considered the recommendations of the Department of Archaeology Review Group, and agreed that the status quo cannot be maintained.

"However, we are absolutely committed to retaining areas of strength in archaeology research and teaching at the University," he said.

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The UEB had on Tuesday proposed to close the world renowned department but retain key areas of research and teaching strength - including cultural heritage and osteoarchaeology - by moving them elsewhere in the University.

They will be aligned and co-located with other areas of academic excellence - in line with the approach at many other universities - to help sustain and develop education and research activity.

Professor Lamberts added: "We will also identify ways to support this transition and invest in the further development of these areas of excellence.

"We will engage with staff throughout this process, and we will ensure that our students continue to receive high quality teaching, research supervision and support.

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"We will adhere to the commitments set out in our student protection plan, should this recommendation be approved.”

The decision to shut down the department was rejected by the staff, who vowed to keep fighting for the survival of the department.

An online petition in support of the department is also growing in numbers, with almost 37,000 have signed so far.