Uni of Sheffield Archaeology Department ‘set up to fail’ faces possible closure

A petition against the proposal has over 10,000 signatures

The future of the University of Sheffield’s Archaeology Department is currently under review due to a lack of staff and a research deficit.

The review is a result of department members asking for three full-time positions to be reinstated after they were scrapped due to the pandemic.

This lack of staff has left other members of the department with little time to complete research projects, leading to the cited research deficit.

Archaeology student Liam Hand told The Sheffield Tab it seems the department was “set up to fail”.

The University of Sheffield is one of only seven Russell Group universities with a dedicated Archaeology Department, which has been running for over 50 years – ranking 5th in the UK and 12th worldwide.

The possibility of department closure has caused an outcry as the world-renowned department is put under threat.

Doctorate student Helen Thompson described the potential loss of the department as “devastating” and “heartbreaking”.

She said: “The department is an incredible community. The staff are beyond supportive, with incredible teachers and talented researchers.”

A vote due to take place on the 25th of May has been organised by the university’s executive board where they will vote on one of three options:

  1. To support and invest in the department to ensure the continuation of archaeology study in Sheffield.
  2. To discontinue archaeology at Sheffield and make all staff redundant.
  3. To discontinue archaeology as a coherent subject but retain aspects of archaeological research and education whilst making remaining staff redundant. The only remaining areas of study would move to medicine and landscape departments (human osteology and cultural heritage).

It has been reported the panel which recommended the review has stated a preference for options two and three, which would cause 11 job losses following a reduction from 29 to 11 members of staff during the pandemic.

Both options two and three would cause the loss of the Archaeology Department but not archaeology as a discipline, with the continuation of two Master’s programmes.

Current students would be supported through their degrees but students say this would “effectively mean the end of archaeology at Sheffield after the last cohort has graduated”.

Liam Hand, a student in the department, started a petition against the proposed closure which has now reached 10,000 signatures of its 15,000 goal.

He told The Sheffield Tab that following the proposed move of the School of Languages to the Modern Languages Teaching Centre, the proposed cuts feel like “another attack on the humanities at Sheffield”.

Students and professors from across the country are against the change, which PhD student Helen Thompson said “will negatively impact the university and archaeology in the UK going forward”.

She told The Sheffield Tab: “Archaeological studies are highlighting key information on climate change, colonialism, human nature, and so much more. Understanding how we’ve operated and interacted as humans for thousands of years can help us understand our own humanity.”

More support has come from the ‘Save Sheffield Archaeology’ Facebook page. The page, with the aim of providing a central location for communication about the department so we can share information and documents others have created in response to the possible closure of the department’ has gained 223 likes since the changes were announced. Speaking to the owners of the page, the Tab was asked to share this resources booklet on the changes.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “The University of Sheffield has undertaken a review of its Department of Archaeology. Staff and student representatives participated in the review, and no decisions have been taken.”

Featured image credit: Jayne Burland