University professor slams possible closure of Sheffield’s Archaeology department

A university professor has hit out at the University of Sheffield for their attempt to shut down its Department of Archaeology amid strong objections across the country.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 7:50 am

University of Bristol's AEGIS Honorary Professor of Sustainable Resources John FH Thompson said he was saddened by the proposed closure as archaeology is part of the British identity.

In a letter sent to both University of Sheffield s vice-chancellor, deputy vice-chancellor and members of the Executive Board, he said substantive changes to major disciplines in a Russell Group university must be handled with appropriate levels of due diligence and change management.

Russell Group universities are known to be long-established and rank high in university league tables, with a focus on research and often have high entry requirements.

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A rally was held in support of the Department of Archaeology recently
A rally was held in support of the Department of Archaeology recently

He wrote: "The process to reach a decision appears flawed, lacking in due process, and full of examples of inappropriate behaviour.

"This has been widely publicised, including among academic circles in North America. Clearly, the result has damaged the university and its brand.

"It will place management under ongoing scrutiny and that will make it more difficult to deal with further challenges - no question that the post-pandemic period will be hard for many universities.

"Those who have experienced management and a coherent plan will prosper while those that don't will look very different in five years.

"On which side of this divide will we find the University of Sheffield? The recent handling of Archaeology does not augur well.

"In the current world, there is a propensity for weak leaders to dig in - or 'double down' in popular political parlance, denying mistakes or wrongdoing, and hoping that nobody will notice.

"Real leaders, however, acknowledge errors, turn adversity into opportunity, reset poor processes, and move forward with confidence.

"While considerable damage has been done to the University of Sheffield, it is not too late to show real leadership."

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

They said, however, they will continue to support the discipline as it is no longer viable to maintain the status quo due to the declining numbers of students choosing the field.

The final decision on the proposed closure will be made at the university council meeting on July 12.