Sherwood writer James Graham hits out as Sheffield Hallam University axes English Literature degree

Sheffield Hallam University is to end its English Literature degree from next year - leading playwright James Graham raise concerns about the wider future of arts education.

Mary Peace, a senior lecturer in English Literature at the university, revealed the decision on Twitter on Saturday with a post that read: "English lit degree at Sheffield Hallam is being “suspended.” University responding to Government who will no longer fund degrees where 60% students don’t end up in “highly skilled” jobs within 6 months."

Mr Graham, whose latest drama Sherwood is currently showing on BBC One to critical acclaim, said that the loss of arts and humanities degrees on the basis of new funding rules could prevent a new generation of writers emerging.

He wrote on Twitter: "They’re cancelling art & humanities degrees at uni where students aren’t in skilled jobs in 6 months. They would have cancelled my drama degree at Hull on that basis. I wouldn’t have become a writer. I wouldn’t have written #Sherwood. Other writers wouldn’t have written theirs."

Writer James Graham and Joanne Froggatt attending the screening of BBC One drama Sherwood at The Broadway Cinema, Nottingham.

Sheffield Hallam has subsequently confirmed that its standalone English Literature course will come to an end from 2023 but the topic will still be covered within a broader English degree. No job losses are expected.

Dr Peace told the Daily Telegraph the decision appears to display “a very short-sighted understanding of what is valuable in a society”.

Earlier this month, UCU, the lecturers’ union, said 37 jobs in arts and humanities jobs at the University of Huddersfield are at risk from staff cuts that are being blamed on falling student numbers.

The UCU said similar cuts to arts and humanities subjects are being planned at the University of Wolverhampton, De Montfort University in Leicester and the University of Roehampton.

Earlier this year, the Office for Students announced plans to financially penalise universities delivering what it deemed "poor quality courses".

The thresholds include a requirement for at least 60 per cent of students to go into professional employment or further study.

The OfS said: "Universities and colleges not meeting these could face investigation, with fines and restrictions on their access to student loan funding available as potential sanctions."

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “As a large comprehensive university offering more than 600 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, we keep our portfolio of courses under constant review to ensure that they align to the latest demands from students and employers.

“A small number of courses are being suspended or closed, which has been communicated to the relevant staff. These changes are predominantly driven by providing the best possible learning offer in the context of the latest application trends. They do not involve job losses.

“We are proud of all our English courses at Sheffield Hallam and we are looking forward to welcoming cohorts in English Literature, English, and Creative Writing programmes starting in September 2022, all of which we are recruiting for.

“From 2023 we will be offering English Literature study within our broad-based English degree, which will allow students to shape their own exploration of the subject across Language, Literature and Creative Writing.

“More broadly, we believe that study in the arts and humanities is hugely valuable for our wider society. Graduates in these areas go on to enjoy successful careers and have a real positive impact on our economy, health, wellbeing and education. These subjects are a vital part of our offer as a university and we will continue to provide a wide range of arts and humanities courses led by some outstanding teams of academics.”

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