University of Sheffield to support archaeology discipline despite closure of department

Any possible closure of the University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology would not mean the end of the globally recognised institution as the university vows to maintain the discipline despite the declining numbers of students choosing the field.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 1:38 pm

The Department of Archaeology, which has 11 teaching and research posts, is currently facing a challenging external environment with declining levels of external funding and students.

For undergraduate courses at the department, there are currently fewer than 10 firm offer holders for the 2021-22 academic year.

Although there's been an increase in applications to its postgraduate teaching courses over the past five years, the growth has been concentrated in a few specific areas of the discipline.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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

This means, the university said, maintaining the status quo is not viable.

In a statement released to The Star on Thursday, a University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “While student recruitment across the University of Sheffield remains very strong, like many other leading universities it has experienced declining numbers of students choosing to read archaeology.

"The University’s Executive Board commissioned a review of archaeology to consider how it could address a challenging external environment, and support and strengthen archaeology teaching and research.

“The Board has supported a recommendation that it believes will not only maintain and support the archaeology discipline at the University, but also ensure it thrives, sustaining it by 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.

“Although no decision has yet been taken, the recommendation would also ensure that many fantastic and important projects and partnerships within the city and its communities, and much further afield, would continue to flourish.”

University of Sheffield's Executive Board (UEB) had in May proposed the closure of the Department of Archaeology following an institutional review, triggering nationwide outrage.

The review, which included engaging with staff and student representatives from the department, identified three potential options to address challenges facing the department.

These were: 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.

Affected students, members of staff and supporters have been calling for the university to go with the first option, which is to invest in the department instead of going for the other two options that would see the closure of the department.

UEB has however recommended the third option, but with enhanced investment in areas of excellence which would see the University retain key areas of research and teaching strength, including cultural heritage and osteoarchaeology, by moving them elsewhere in the University.

There would also be a focus on postgraduate teaching and the University would honour existing undergraduate courses before this teaching would finish.

No final decision has been made yet as the University’s governing body (University Council) has asked for advice from the University’s Senate before it considers this recommendation

The Senate, which oversees teaching and research and is responsible for academic quality and standards, will meet on June 23 before being considered by the University Council on July 12.

A rally to protest the decision will be held on Monday (June 21), two days before the senate meeting.