Cultural guardians, facilitators of development and regeneration, custodians of heritage and archaeology, and a much admired and loved profession ( a dream job even) so why is it that we are under such attack.
In June 2017, Mary Shepperson, wrote in the Guardian that “British archaeology is in a fight for survival” – now, 4 years later this has become a bitter struggle.
She pointed out that student applications were falling, threatening university departments with cuts and as Manchester, Birmingham and Bangor all contracted, we see the same again now with Leicester, Chesters and now Sheffield. We are also seeing yet again the push for “red tape” to be removed, and it does not take much thought to see a connection to less archaeologists being produced into a profession that needs more archaeologists being seen as a drag on development and economic recovery. Add to this the terrifying concepts where the telling of a story must fit into a national narrative, where Britain must be promoted, and any “woke” left wing” agendas such as examining colonial and BLM issues is seen as disloyal to the Nation. We are at a point in time where we need to act, not hope that someone else will.
(See bottom of piece to see how you can support each of these campaigns)
Currently we need to see a national response, a widespread anger at what is happening. A coherent and focussed pushback.
But of course, we are in a vicious circle, Pay and conditions in commercial archaeology are not something to attract graduates, thus less students, thus less prospective archaeologists and so more excuses to close or shrink more departments. Are we at the point where we wink out of existence because we can’t create the career profession that attracts new graduates, rather than ensure that out of the 15% graduates who join the profession, only 5% are left after 2years?
So we are in backing ourselves into a trap. We cant fix one section without looking at all the elements, to reclaim archaeology as a skilled and meaningful profession, with real benefits to science, economy and the public, and to ensure that those that join the sector, have a means to stay.
Currently the University department at Sheffield is under threat of closure and Chesters is fighting back against redundancies, add to these, the Medieval Literature course, at the University of Leicester is under threat.
The three options are first, to invest in the department with new posts and the development of new programmes and second, to close the department but to honour commitments to existing students. The third option is to retain Archaeology as a discipline but not as a department where key programmes will be retained but realigned to other departments in the university along with associated staff while commitments to existing students would still be honoured.
The decisions are made already perhaps? Unless we oppose it with every fibre of our being
Once these departments are dismantled they are gone – to rebuild would take decades.
Read – Act – don’t sit back
Letter template to the Sheffield University Executive Board regarding the Department of Archaeology
Ensuring the protection of archaeology for future generations within Planning for the Future
Save Archaeology & Heritage at the University of Chester!
Save Sheffield’s Archaeology Department
Response from the Prehistoric Society
Response from the Society of Antiquaries London
Response from the Scottish Strategic Archaeology Committee
CIfA response to threats to Chester & Sheffield archaeology departments
The Star has posted an article about the Department review
Disappointing response from Uni of Leicester VC to senior academics’ concerns