Update: You can read the CIfA letter to the University of Sheffield Vice-Channcellor, Koen Lamberts, here.
Yesterday, information came to light that Sheffield University is considering whether to cut or close its archaeology department. This is in addition to a similar threat to the department at the University of Chester, announced in recent weeks, and wider cuts, including to the Medieval Literature course, at the University of Leicester.
This is a concerning emerging trend, particularly given the recent publicity surrounding Government’s intention to cut funding to archaeology and other social science, humanities, and arts subjects. While the decisions in Chester and Sheffield appear to be unrelated to this cut, they indicate a challenging environment for archaeology and similar disciplines within the cultural climates of Westminster, and in Higher Education institutions.
CIfA’s immediate priority is to gather more detailed information about the cuts and to work closely with Universities Archaeology UK (UAUK) to understand the situations in Chester, Sheffield, and Leicester. It is of critical concern to the discipline that Higher Education can deliver graduates who are skilled to enter the profession of archaeology, especially given the growth of the profession in recent years and current high demand for skilled archaeologists. Both Chester and Sheffield are in the process of applying for CIfA accreditation of their degree programmes in recognition of this aim. It is also important that Universities remain a place where students can be inspired by archaeology to develop an understanding of our pasts which can enrich our society in important and varied ways.
We strongly believe that archaeology is a vibrant, modern subject which is worthy of continuation. Representatives of the archaeology sector recently met with the Universities Minister in Westminster, who recognised the sector’s strong arguments for the retention of high-cost subject funding. However, we recognise that there are wider financial pressures and factors which may be affecting decisions by Universities to cut departments, and these will not necessarily be influenced by simple reflections of the value of archaeology. These issues of policy and economics must be addressed too if these and other departments are to be protected.
There has been an outpouring of support on social media for the departments under threat, and CIfA supports calls to write to the University Vice Chancellors to show support for the departments and their staff. You can find information on how to do this below.
CIfA has, and will continue to work with UAUK, CBA, the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, Heritage Alliance, and the Archaeology Forum to support departments and lobby government in the coming weeks and months.