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Closure at Birmingham
Closure of The Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at University of Birmingham including Birmingham Archaeology, VISTA and Birmingham Archaeo-Environmental

We would like to bring to the archaeology communities attention the imminent closure of The Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham, an IfA Registered Organisation which encompasses archaeological research and teaching staff alongside project and grant funded staff under the headings of Birmingham Archaeology, VISTA and Birmingham Archaeo-environmental (BAE). Following a rapid (and staff believe flawed and prejudicial) review of the department it has been recommended that the IAA be dispended. Under the proposals 19+ staff will loose their jobs including all project and research archaeology staff, a group originally formed following the restructuring of Birmingham Archaeology in early 2011 as they wereidentified as a team with a successful and proven track record.

High profile projects in which archaeological project staff have been instrumental include: ‘Dig for Shakespeare’ , Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project ,, the ground breaking Heritage and Cultural learning Hub is supported by VISTA , the Eton Myer Collection Virtual Museum Project, the recovery of the Staffordshire hoard , and the West Coast Palaeolandscapes project .

All of these projects have been or are currently showcased by the university on their website and display material as examples of exceptional research at the university and many have been in the national press or the subject of documentaries.

However the people who undertake this high level archaeological research alongside a raft of more traditional commercial archaeology work ( are now under threat of redundancy. NO specific reason has been given for the cessation of archaeological project work despite repeated requests.

When Birmingham Archaeology (including VISTA and BAE) was reviewed by the university back in 2010/2011 support from ex members of staff and those who had read about or visited our projects was substantial and much appreciated ( ). Your support would be once again be appreciated but this time we need it to count where it matters- with the University of Birmingham.

A ‘Save the IAA’ campaign has begun which will include student action and hopefully considerable press coverage. We would ask anyone who studied at Birmingham University, worked for Birmingham archaeology, enjoyed watching Alice Roberts or Tony Robinson visit one of our many excavations, or simply is concerned with higher education bodies commitment to the arts in general, to support this campaign by signing the petition, and more importantly writing to the Vice Chancellor with letters of support specifically related to archaeological teaching, research and project work.
Specific details of our current situation, including the official Birmingham University College Union (BUCU) statement to its members, along with the methods in which individuals can support the ‘save the IAA’ campaign can be found at

Please sign the Save the IAA campaign petition:
Write a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the university David Eastwood telling him why it is so important that the IAA remains open and specifically that archaeological research and project activities continue at the University of Birmingham.

To have more of an impact make sure to personalise your letter and if you can send it recorded delivery to:

David Eastwood
Vice-Chancellor’s Office
Aston Webb Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
United Kingdom

You can also send emails to:

Thank you for your time and for your support
Kind regards
the ‘at risk’ staff of the IAA
This is terrible news, coming right out of the blue and only a short time after the Birmingham field unit itself was decimated. I feel shocked that such an important and well-established institution could be so easily dispensed with. Having once worked for the unit before it was dismantled, that closure struck me then as an act of cultural vandalism. Now we have the sequel - to the great detriment of students as well as staff. The Institute is highly valued in the discipline and only a short time ago many of us were there for the most recent TAG conference. How has it come to this? What, one wonders, has been going on at Birmingham behind the scenes?

It’s worth following the link to the save the IAA campaign website at

There,amidst details about the speed of the review and lack of consultation, you will find the (not entirely unexpected) revelation:

“The composition of the review panel consisted largely of senior members of the unit under review”

I take it from this that the people playing a large part in closing the Institute down are basically the same senior academic archaeologists who closed the field operations down. This isn’t just a case of powerful external forces putting the squeeze on archaeology. Some of the prime movers in the wave of destruction are archaeologists themselves, though clearly of high enough status and position for their own jobs not to be threatened.

Surely the archaeological community should hold them to account?
I fear this is the thin edge of the wedge that is being driven by the un-elected government into academia, Oh Happy day, not!
Well I have sent off my rather strict letter.

I agree to a proposal for review, but I am strongly against the form as it stands. IT lacks any legitimacy or transparency and results only on the perpetrators being seen as self serving and with something to hide.

I hope you are all signing AND writing.

979 out of: 1,000 signatures


Fearful university bosses losing control – Statement from University of Birmingham Defend Education.

University of Birmingham bosses have been responding to student/staff protests regarding the closure of the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity and to university support staff taking industrial action over pay cuts. Even by their normal standards the conduct of the management has been ludicrously heavy-handed and only solidifies their image of being out of control and out of touch.

IAA petition
Academics in Royal Holloway in Surrey and Universities in London were reporting this Friday that they had been e-mailed by Mike Whitby the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. His e-mail was asking them to withdraw their name from the “Save the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity” petition. It appears that the university desperately sensitive of its poor public relations is e-mailing every academic who signs the petition in a desperate attempt to put its spin on the closure of the department.

Nice bit of publicity for them!
Great blog.

Advertising departments to 'customers' (students) on open days and then trying to keep quiet that these departments are being cut is pretty shabby. As is clawing back 16 years worth of bank holidays.
Yup.... they are not covering themselves in glory here.

Here is my letter to the Vice Chancellor

It is with great concern that I am forced to write to you regarding the proposed action regarding the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) review. There are several proposals which seem unacceptable given the stature of the Institute in UK archaeology. A feeling that is somehow lacking in the review process itself, given the assertion that the Institute is failing.

I find it rather odd that a supposedly failing Institute is not looking at it's senior staff to be included in the review process, a process which leads people to believe ( rightly or wrongly ) that the composition of the panel lacks any legitimacy, given their own jobs are excluded from the review process.

In addition the lack of openness to the staff under threat of redundancy only highlights what looks like a seriously flawed review.

If this review continues in the manner that it does, I will be using all my resources and contacts to ensure that the full story is recorded and every action, email, account, name and report regarding this review is open for public scrutiny. The review is needed, but it needs to be transparent and seen to be fair, which it currently does not seem to be. Even if this a matter of perception, without a real openness, the review will always be tainted by the suspicions of an inadequate and inherently unfair process.

From what I know personally, been presented with in written form and additional communications from alumni - there is nothing that suggests the course of action proposed will have any other effect other than to destroy and diminish an organisation that still has a worthwhile future as a separate and dedicated Institute.

Education is not only about commercial viability and profit and commitment must be to the whole range of subjects that are on offer, to retain a balanced university structure.
A statement from the university dated 18th June can be read here ( ) – probably the nearest thing we have to an outline of the official position. It refers to 'misinformation' in the public domain.
A detailed response from Birmingham UCU dated 22[SIZE=2]nd June, [/SIZE] giving interesting background info and a point-by-point critique of the official position, can be found here ( )

It would be good if some of the professorial staff at Birmingham could respond to criticisms made. I would have thought it their role to stand up for the IAA. If they are in favour of its dismantling, however, then perhaps they should put the case to the wider archaeological community, who have expressed such dismay and disquiet over the proposed closure.

The paradox still stands, and needs to be answered. If it's true that the IAA has been failing, why are the senior staff who oversaw the alleged failure all being rewarded with continued job security and promotions, while more junior staff - not responsible for past managerial decisions - face redundancy?
I might be mistaken, being relatively new to the area, but isn't this similar to how the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at Edinburgh was born - with similar reductions/closing of the university's main archaeology unit? Is this the start of a new trend in the UK?

Edit: I was thinking of this appeal written by Harding in 2002:
Quote:The paradox still stands, and needs to be answered. If it's true that the IAA has been failing, why are the senior staff who oversaw the alleged failure all being rewarded with continued job security and promotions, while more junior staff - not responsible for past managerial decisions - face redundancy?
Misinformation ...hmmmmm like them contacting academics who signed and asking them to remove their names. OR a lot of other 'issues'

The Birmingham staff are unable to comment directly - just let it be said that BAJR is acting as a mouthpiece.

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