Pressure mounts on University of Sheffield over Department of Archaeology decision

There has been mounting pressure on University of Sheffield to keep its Department of Archaeology as its fate will be decided in a highly-anticipated meeting on Tuesday.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 1:49 pm

The globally recognised department is currently undergoing an institutional review, putting it in danger of closure and ultimately an untimely demise of a renowned institution.

An online petition had also been launched as soon as the word got out that the university was "inclined" to shut it down, garnering over 30,000 signatures from existing students, former alumni and supporters from all over the world and counting.

And a rally has also been planned ahead of the meeting tomorrow, which will be attended by affected members of staff and the members of the University Executive Board.

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Sheffield University's Ella Armitage building where the Department of Archaelogy is located. Picture Scott Merrylees

Joined Up Heritage Sheffield, a non-profit organisation that had worked with the department on a number of occasions, have also expressed their concern ahead of the decision.

Trustee Robin Hughes said: This is a department that flies high in national and international rankings – it is in the top 50 archaeology departments in the world.

"It is highly rated by its students. It contributes significantly to the life of the city of Sheffield, for example via its involvement in the recent castle site excavations and through outreach projects. "The fact that a petition opposing closure has achieved over 18,000 signatures in a mere day or so illustrates the strength of feeling."

"It is, or should be, unthinkable that the department disappears, in whole or in large part. Yet two of the three options for its future which will be considered by university management on 25 May would lead to its demise.

Archaeology staff and students outside Sheffield University's Ella Armitage building. Picture Scott Merrylees

"And there are questions to be asked about how university management has treated the department in recent years."

He said businesses, especially in the independent and creative sectors, are increasingly seeking historic buildings and areas, realising the attractions they offer to their customers.

"Its value as an educational resource is obvious, recently exemplified nationally by the adoption of Sheffield Manor Lodge as a mandatory case study for the Historic Environment GCSE.

"What makes something historic is an understanding of its past – what lies beneath. Archaeology underpins it all," he said.

Another concerned member of the community also said she was "appalled" that the university is considering shutting down the "world leading department."

Barbara Warsop said: "In 2014 I asked for help with a project I was undertaking re the history of Parkwood Springs my birthplace.

"I couldn’t find any history of the place so decided to write about it myself and with the help of

past residents we set about the task of asking for help from Sheffield University.

"Since 2014 already four past residents of Parkwood Springs have passed away their voices recorded for posterity. Our City will be taking a backward step if this department closes."

The three options that are being considered 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.

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.