CUCD EDI Statement on the threat to close Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology

The CUCD EDI committee condemns the recent revelation that the Department of Archaeology in Sheffield is under threat of closure. Following an internal review of the department’s staffing needs, the University Executive Board informed the Department that a vote regarding its future would be held on 25th May. The following options are:

(A) support and invest in the department to ensure the future of archaeology at Sheffield.

(B) discontinue archaeology as a subject at Sheffield and make all the staff redundant.

(C) discontinue archaeology as a coherent and core subject, but retain aspects of archaeological research and education (human osteology and cultural heritage specifically to be merged into other departments), and make remaining staff redundant.

Sheffield is not the only department currently being threatened with redundancies and restructuring. Staff in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester are currently at risk; and scholars working on pre-modern language and literature in the Department of English at the University of Leicester have been targeted as part of an ongoing redundancy drive. In all cases, the restructuring or closure of such departments represents a huge loss for both academic and local communities.

Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology is a world-renowned institution not only for its research, but also its impact on and engagement with the wider community. For many years, the department has supported the student-led Archaeology in the City project, which provides free talks and workshops to local primary schools, community groups and the general public. Staff are also at the heart of many projects that have opened up the study of the pre-modern world to new audiences, such as the Roots of Iron project and Sheffield Castle Project.

The recent ‘A level Classics poverty’ report highlighted the existence of huge geographical ‘gaps’ in the UK where students face limited access to classical subjects at A-Level. Sheffield is no exception to this worrying trend: the report revealed that only 2 state-maintained schools entered candidates for A-Level Classical Civilisation in 2019 and none at all for A-Level Ancient History. The closure of Sheffield’s archaeology department and the ensuing disbandment of its outreach and public engagement programmes will only hasten the deterioration of opportunities to engage with the ancient world in both educational and community settings.

To protect the Department’s future, people are urged to take the following actions:

  1. Email the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Executive Board of the University, urging them to choose option A. You can take inspiration from or modify the following letter template, also adding your personal experience of the department where necessary.
  2. Sign the petition available on Change.org
  3. Show your support on social media. Use the hashtag #savesheffieldarchaeology (archaeology with an ae!) and direct people to their dedicated website and Facebook page.
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