University of York drops 'world's only degree in railway history' from its teaching programme - to outcry from rail industry

The rail industry has condemned a decision by the University of York to drop the 'world's only degree in railway history' from its study programme - despite it being oversubscribed.

Course leader Dr David Turner confirmed on Twitter that the Masters degree in railway studies would be closing when the current intake of students graduate and no further applications are now being accepted.

Dr Turner had taught the MA for the past eight years.

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He said: "It is with great sadness that I have to report that the University of York is withdrawing the Master's degree in Railway Studies. After eight years, I am heartbroken. Many thanks to the many wonderful students who put their trust in the programme. You've been great."

Tornado at York Station

LNER managing director David Horne offered his support for Dr Turner, commenting: "What a poor show by University of York - especially at a time when York is bidding to be the home of Great British Railways. I’ve had the honour of talking to two cohorts of students about the modern railway. Hopefully another city’s university will seize the opportunity to continue the degree course."

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Historian Tim Dunn, who presents the UKTV programme The Architecture the Railways Built, added: "Sad news, history and railway enthusiasts: the University of York has closed the 'world's only degree in railway history'. The course was oversubscribed yet the uni has no interest. Three cheers for its indefatigable course leader Dr David Turner. Uni of York, you've let us all down."

The closure was also condemned by the Journal of Transport History, who released a lengthy statement criticising the decision: "Dreadful news - this course was at the heart of our discipline. A short-sighted decision which we deplore and will have a grave impact on our field and on the opportunities available to many for study. We're devastated to hear it.

"This unique course was internationally respected, crucial to our discipline and wider historical scholarship. It was popular with students and the teaching is first-class. The links beyond the academy were impressive too, with industry and museum colleagues involved.

"This course was a model of good practice. The rationale for the closure is simply unclear, and we're disappointed that our contributions during the closure 'consultation' process were seemingly ignored by York. We deplore this move."

The programme was online-only with no face-to-face teaching.

A University of York spokesperson said: “As part of a wider institutional review, our MA in Railway Studies distance learning programme has been permanently withdrawn.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to those who were in the process of applying to study on this course. We would also like to reassure students currently on the MA that their remaining studies will not be affected.

“We appreciate this announcement will cause disappointment, but this decision in no way changes the University’s long-standing commitment to railway history. Colleagues at our Institute for Railway Studies and Department of History are working on a number of important projects including exploring historic links between steam power railways and slavery. We are also involved in shaping the future of the rail industry through our recently-launched Institute for Safe Autonomy.”