Following on from threats to cut Archaeology and Heritage staff at the University of Chester and the ongoing process to close the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, I’m dismayed by the short-sighted decision by management to close the distinctive, highly regarded & long-running archaeology programmes at the University of Worcester. Building on cuts to staff already enacted there in recent weeks, this will result in the redundancy of all the Archaeology staff which number 3.5 FTE (full-time equivalents) situated within the Geography, Archaeology and Environment section of the University of Worcester’s School of Science and the Environment.
My information is that recruitment had been suspended last year and now there are no plans to recruit for the 2021/22 or 2022/23 academic years. Therefore, I understand that the programmes are set to wrap up by next summer, with staff redundancies beginning in January 2022 through to July 2022. From social media, it is clear that not only do third-year students feel betrayed and angry especially, but also postgraduate students are set to be left high and dry without supervision if this plan is implemented.
Again, against a background where Archaeology remains a versatile and engaging subject connected to a host of other disciplines, has a raft of vocational dimensions as well as providing transferable skills for a host of potential career paths, this is a dismal turn of events. In particular, Worcester has made Archaeology widely available in the West Midlands and across the UK and accessible to students outside of the Russell Group. In all regards, Worcester have repeatedly excelled in its learning and teaching, evidenced by student feedback and the career destinations of its students.
Dr Jodie Lewis, by way of example, is a leading expert in later prehistoric and landscape archaeology and her loss to the discipline of Archaeology cannot be underestimated. Her generous and visionary Foreword to my co-edited 2019 book The Public Archaeology of Death is but one among many pieces of writing that illustrate her long-term contribution to both teaching and research in UK Archaeology.
Once again, it is clear we have a university Senior Executive Board which doesn’t realise what a gem it has and is letting talented and hard-working staff’s careers expire rather than working with them to support and build their distinctive Archaeology programmes.
To this end, please do SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION!
I repeat the text of the petition so you have a clear sense of what is at stake:
The University of Worcester have today (17th August) taken the decision to no longer offer Archaeology as a discipline with effect from the end of the 2021/22 academic year.
The decision was made by the University Executive Board (UEB) in the context of “low numbers of applications received over several years” and “limited evidence to support the view that such a course of study was likely to be viable on an ongoing basis”. Staff were not consulted in this final decision process.
This is despite repeated outstanding figures for student satisfaction and graduate opportunities in the National Student Survey. The University of Worcester has consistently attracted the highest number of admissions to Archaeology in the West Midlands and indeed more students than many Russell group institutions. Over the last four years, between 50-80% of UW graduates have gone on to employment in the historic environment sector or further study, compared to the standard (2001) benchmark of 15%. Archaeology graduates from the University of Worcester are placed in a number of strategic positions within the historic environment sector, both locally and nationally. The degree at the University of Worcester is also committed to making archaeology and heritage open to all and is one of few programmes with an impressive track record of inclusion.
Lecturers and staff have been told they are not permitted to present a case for a new degree, that they face redundancy and there is no option to appeal.
The University of Worcester Archaeology degree provides stimulating learning, delivered by enthusiastic, experienced staff who have a real passion for their subject. The programme features a practical, hands-on approach with extensive fieldwork opportunities supported by excellent facilities, helping students to understand key concepts and providing specialist skills demanded by employers.
We would like to ask for your support in any way you can and to persuade the Vice Chancellor and the UEB to reconsider their decision.
If you can help us achieve this, please work with us by signing this petition and sharing this wherever you can.
Update: as of 20 August 2021, I’ve written to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Worcester and the University’s Executive Board. Click here to see my letter:
Update 5/9/21. On Friday I decided to write again to the VC of Worcester because it has come to my attention from multiple sources that my letter, and his reply, are being together used widely as evidence that concerns have been dealt with. See my Twitter thread on Friday to explain the situation.
I subsequently sent the letter below, following up on the 4 points I raised and querying the misuse of our communications as a fixed public relations statement for dissemination to not only staff and the general public, but also students and others who have written in expressing concerns about the future of Archaeology at the University of Worcester.
Professor Green replied by return – copying in his entire senior executive team – asserting that my second letter was ‘very poor’, was ‘sad really’ and contains ‘untruths’. I consider his response far from professional and certainly not courteous. Still, to try and keep things polite I thought it best to apologise for causing such upset (since I can only imagine something I said personally upset him) and thanked him for his response.
For the record, to the best of my knowledge, both of my letters are accurate, fair and pose a reasonable set of queries and reiterate a simple request regarding the future of Archaeology at Worcester in the light of the huge amount of public support for the campaign ‘@saveworcsarch‘. Their petition has now over 8,400 signatures! Sign here!
In response to my apology for any upset caused, Professor Green wrote again, stating once more than my letter was contained ‘untruths’ and that he would reply ‘in public’ this coming week.
Sadly, it seems as if Professor David Green is not now willing to reply to my second letter, so I’ve reiterated the position.