University of Sheffield archaeology department set to close after management takes decision to cut courses despite 34,000 people signing a petition to save it

A member of the University of Sheffield's archaeology department has confirmed that staff have been told the majority if its current functions will be cut.

Students at a campus rally to support the archaeology department this week
Students at a campus rally to support the archaeology department this week

Medieval archaeologist Dr Hugh Willmott said: "It is with great sadness and regret that I have to report the university's executive board had decided to press ahead with their plan to close the department and move only two small elements of our teaching into dispersed departments where they shall surely wither and quickly die."

The university management had been consultating on three separate outcomes for the department - complete closure of all programmes, allowing it to continue with fresh investment, or a third option of subsuming a small number of taught Masters courses into other departments. The latter was chosen by board members, who identifed these areas of research and teaching as key departmental strengths.

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The decision was made due to a decline in applications for undergraduate courses, a trend which has been seen nationally since tuition fee rises. The department has asked the university if A Level points tariffs could be lowered to widen the pool of applicants, but this request was declined. Department sources also claimed that postgraduate programmes were still successful and popular with international students.

The department is rated among the top 50 archaeology schools in the world and has been in existence since 1976.

Another member, Professor Umberto Albarella, said that 'the fight will go on' as the university's highest academic authority, the Senate, would ultimately have to approve the executive board's proposal.

Over 34,000 supporters from all over the world have so far signed a Change.org petition calling for the department to be saved.

A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “The university is committed to retaining areas of strength in archaeology teaching and research at Sheffield. The 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 receive high-quality teaching and support.”