Anthony Horowitz sounds warning over loss of Sheffield Hallam English Literature degree

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Best-selling writer Anthony Horowitz has warned universities scrapping English Literature are the “first stirrings of a very cold wind from the Government”.

The award-winning author of the Alex Rider series has written to The Times after it was announced Sheffield Hallam University was dropping its English Literature degree next year while the University of Roehampton, where Horowitz is an associate professor, is making more than 60 redundancies across the university. The cuts will affect its arts and humanities department.

The University of Huddersfield and De Montfort University are also planning similar cuts to their arts and humanities departments.

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It comes as the Government plans to financially penalise universities for degree courses where less than 60 per cent of graduates go on to professional employment within 15 months of graduating.

Novelist Anthony Horowitz has raised concerns about the future of English Literature degrees.Novelist Anthony Horowitz has raised concerns about the future of English Literature degrees.
Novelist Anthony Horowitz has raised concerns about the future of English Literature degrees.

Mr Horowitz, who studied English Literature at the University of York, warned the study of English Literature could only end up being for the “privileged elite”.

It follows similar criticism by playwright James Graham, who said the drama degree he did at Hull University would have been cancelled under the current system - meaning he would not have gone on to create hits such as acclaimed BBC One series Sherwood.

Mr Horowitz said: “Economics do not seem to be behind a positively inhumane attack on almost half of the Roehampton University academics — 226 men and women — who have been informed that they are “at risk” of redundancy and must reapply for positions in competition with each other.

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“In recent years English literature at Roehampton has outscored the majority of Russell Group universities, according to National Student Survey results, and its graduate salaries are in the top eight across the country.

“Most students at Roehampton are drawn from the local area and constitute working-class and ethnically diverse young people. When they return in September they will find many of their lecturers, supervisors and academic guidance tutors gone, and their own opportunities blighted.

“James Graham has rightly drawn attention to the same issue at Sheffield Hallam. These are the first stirrings of a very cold wind blowing from the government. Are we really going to be comfortable in a society which has decided that subjects that promote critical thinking and the beauty of language and literature, and which have helped to develop the careers of writers such as Graham and myself, should in the future be reserved only for a privileged elite?”

A spokeswoman for the University of Roehampton said: “Like many UK universities, we are seeing student demand evolving, with some subject areas attracting great demand, and we are also facing financial challenges due to a range of factors.

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“We are proposing changes to rebalance our resources and achieve our vision of providing an excellent student experience and delivering successful graduate outcomes in a sustainable way.

“This will involve making some difficult and challenging decisions.

“We will continue to deliver our English literature BA.”

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