Sheffield Uni ‘broke promises’ from Archaeology Department protection plan

Students and lecturers say four out of five points of its protection plan were broken

The University of Sheffield broke several promises in its Archaeology Department protection plan, campaigners have said.

The plan was designed to protect students ‘in the event that a risk to the continuation of studies should arise’.

Campaigners say the uni has failed in four out of five of the plan’s promises, including the first commitment to be ‘open and transparent’ about proposed changes.

This is because it is reported that at a meeting held on May 18, students, councillors and academic reps were not made aware they were taking part in a departmental review.

They were told by Deputy VC, Gill Valentine, the aim of the meeting was to ‘support the development of the department’ – despite the aim to consider the department’s closure.

Further, the university is also withholding the report upon which they based the decision to close the department. The most that has been made public is a one-hour PowerPoint shown to academics, which Hugh Willmott, a lecturer in the department, wrote on Twitter was ‘pathetically inaccurate’.

The second commitment of the protection plan says ‘reasonable steps to protect your studies’ will be taken.

But campaigners say no timeline, preparation, or plans are evident for the closure – leaving students feeling like ‘an afterthought’, according to one source.

Students say the possible closure is ‘stressful’ and interfering with their studies, as rumours circulate changes could begin as early as September.

Campaigners say this lack of clarity contradicts both the protection plan’s commitment to be ‘open’ and ‘protect students’.

The plan also says students will be consulted and their views considered in a timely manner regarding any changes.

But campaigners say the last-minute changes and a lack of transparency over the review meeting meant academic reps did not have time to collect student views, which could have informed the review.

Finally, campaigners say the university has failed in its commitment to ‘take into consideration the needs of all our students and the impact on them of any proposed changes’.

Campaigners recognise that in an email to students, the Deputy VC, Gill Valentine, referred students to the university’s support services, saying she understood the decision could be ‘unsettling or worrying’ for students.

But students say the closure of their department is causing much stress and leaving students unable to complete their work.

Last week, students and lecturers gathered outside Firth Court to protest the decision with speeches and placards reading ‘dig deep, save archaeology’ – whilst the petition against the university’s decision continues to grow.

It currently stands on 39,176 signatures and can be found here.

A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “The University is committed to retaining areas of strength in archaeology teaching and research at Sheffield.

“The University’s Executive Board is recommending that key areas of strength are aligned to other University departments, with enhanced investment for excellence.

“We will continue to play a role in our local communities and honour our commitment to all current students who will continue to receive high-quality teaching, research supervision and support .”

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