Briefing from the Department of Archaeology, for Senate Meeting, 23 June 2021
This briefing paper presents the Department of Archaeology’s perspective on the University
Executive Board’s review and decision to close the department.
We set out our position in three sections (the sections offer summaries of longer documents,
linked from the section titles, below): the department’s current strengths in education, research
and knowledge exchange; a critical assessment of the UEB Review; the department’s plan for the
future sustainability of Archaeology at Sheffield.
1 The department’s strengths
Archaeology is uniquely positioned as a global discipline at the intersection of the sciences and
humanities, with academic and vibrant professional sectors, and with worldwide public appeal and
The Department of Archaeology is ranked 7th in the UK (out of 28) and 39th (out of 220) in the
world (QS 2022) with an outstanding international standing and formidable
public reputation (Save Sheffield Archaeology amassed >45,000 petition signatures and c. 2,000
letters of support that we know about). Archaeology is currently on the UK’s Shortage Occupation
List (up to -64% deficit through 2033); our commercial partners rely on employing our future UG,
PGT and PGR graduates.
Our specialised field and lab training result in 94% overall UG student satisfaction (NSS 2020; 5th
in the Russell Group and 6/44 in TUoS) and 94% of PGRs are satisfied with their supervisors
(2019). “Deciding to do Archaeology at Sheffield has been the best decision I ever made” (current
UG Student). We support interdisciplinary teaching at all levels across multiple faculties and have
been at the forefront of initiatives to embed impact and KE in education through live projects
delivering partner-focus briefs, PGR-led programmes and festivals.
Our research is recognised internationally for spearheading the integration of arts and sciences,
which we currently mobilise to address significant world-wide challenges in society, environment
and food. For REF2021 all staff have at least one 3* internally rated publication and we have
developed >70 international collaborations since 2014. A strong, closely-knit research
community attracts excellent, externally-funded Early Career Researchers through Marie
Sklowdowska-Curie IEF and the hosting of Leverhulme, British Academy, Gerda-Henkel, de Velling
Willis fellows (32 ECRs since 2014), and a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow. We champion the value of our
research beyond the immediate disciplinary context and respond creatively to maximise the
diversity of our funding by strategically using local, national and international sources (applications
since 2014 total £21M). Embedding of impact into research planning from the outset has
enhanced collaboration with non-academic and academic partners, including a dynamic strategic
board, and ensured 100% of our impact case studies have been graded (2014) or predicted (2021)
Our research and teaching are fully embedded within local communities, enriching lives through
educational and cultural opportunities for people from across the region while our
successful outreach work, direct recruitment of WP students and recruitment through the
Department for Lifelong Learning support equality of access to education in the Sheffield
region. Through key projects within the city, we have created the foundation for a local
community and governmental strategies for heritage industry and the city’s identity. Our
flagship Castlegate Project in collaboration with Sheffield Council has wide-reaching economic
impact for the Sheffield city region.
2 The UEB review process
a) Background to UEB’s Review of Archaeology
The Review has been presented as a response to a letter from Archaeology to the VC. The letter
sought the VC’s advice on the Faculty’s progressive closure of our programmes, restrictions on
recruitment, non-renewal of posts and rejection of initiatives to improve our position
(amounting to gradual unannounced closure as the VC effectively admitted in his last meeting
b) Review Process
· We had no opportunity of input to the review other than by answering questions put
to us verbally by the Panel.
· The underpinning data pack, sent to us late after it was shared with Panel members,
included errors/misrepresentations (below, c) we do not know whether our corrections
were tabled at the meeting.
c) Errors/misrepresentations in data given to Review Panel or in oral feedback on Review
· Our UG and PGT recruitment data are presented selectively and misleadingly.
· Our REF 2021 Impact Case Studies are attributed to departed staff, but both are in
· Our Research themes are said not to match our strengths but our REF 2021
Environment Statement contradicts this.
· Despite claimed lack of leadership, our current HoD has delivered all Faculty
objectives including almost eliminating our financial shortfall.
d) Outcome of Review
· The Review Panel outcome was communicated to us orally, but access to its report to
UEB (and underpinning evidence) was refused and we have had no opportunity to respond.
The ensuing UEB recommendation was communicated to us in an email at the same time
as other TUoS staff, and access to information on UEB’s deliberations has also been
· Reasons cited for closure include the direct results of senior management decisions:
e.g. small staff number, problems with recruitment.
· The UEB recommendation is already being enacted. Our Department for Lifelong
Learning Foundation year intake for 2021 was cancelled and all staffing renewals were
suspended as soon as the Review was announced. Since the review recommendation, both
our UG applicants and transfers into Archaeology from Department for Lifelong Learning
have been discouraged centrally.
· Four new permanent posts, approved in January 2020 and frozen due to COVID, are
now filled temporarily due to our financial position – despite its radical improvement.
3 The department’s plan
Our future plan for sustaining Archaeology in the medium to long-term at Sheffield builds on our
strengths as leading educators of the world’s archaeologists, our pioneering research addressing
themes of global relevance, and our diverse inter-sectoral partnerships and collaborations within
the university, region and internationally.
Increase recruitment into our undergraduate programmes
a. Align A-level tariff with the realities of the external recruitment environment.
b. Clearly delineate and promote our undergraduate programmes as pathways to
professional careers in archaeology, which address the UK skills shortage.
c. Develop flexible entry points and widen access with a foundation year open to non-
mature students, and new online and blended UG programmes.
d. Strengthen the appeal of the BSc programme by introducing undergraduate options that
better reflect our PGT specialisms: e.g. bioarchaeology and human osteology.
Consolidate and diversify our success in specialist postgraduate education
a. Implement a marketing strategy to promote the department’s newly launched vocational
PGT pathways: ‘Managing the Historic Environment’ and ‘Bioarchaeology’.
b. Apply our PGT educational expertise to the development of PG apprenticeships and a
flexible CPD programme of online and blended learning.
c. Appoint a full-time academic post in global cultural heritage who can further develop the
MA Cultural Heritage Management, and forge new educational collaborations. (Business plan
approved by the Faculty in early 2020.)
d. Contribute to new interdisciplinary programmes in forensic science and food
sustainability that transform our cross-faculty collaborations into PGT programmes.
Expand research capacity and grant income
a. Reduce the workloads of current staff by making new academic appointments and re-
establishing continuity in the technical and professional services teams.
b. Four new academic appointments will enhance existing world-leading research, align with
the institutional research centres, and strengthen our educational mission. (Business plans
approved by the Faculty in early 2020.)
c. Establish a stable and skilled technical and professional services team who have the
capacity and institutional knowledge to manage fundamental departmental work.
Build on successes in partnerships, community engagement and knowledge exchange
a. Develop consultancy through the Sheffield Archaeobotanical Consultancy, and the new
(NPIF funded) Archaeological Research and Resources at Sheffield (ARRaS).
b. Integrate our established and strategic partnerships (e.g. Historic England, The National
Trust) into our educational programmes and public outreach.
c. Consolidate the department as a centre for expertise in community heritage, especially
within Sheffield and the city region.
d. Recognise and invest in developing and emerging impact case studies.
(Letter from Paul Halstead and Glynis Jones, sent 9th July 2021)
We apologise for writing again regarding the proposed closure of the Department of Archaeology
at the University of Sheffield and the wider issues of University principles and procedures that this
raises. As our requests for a meeting with the Vice Chancellor have been declined, we are
approaching you as Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council. We understand that Council has sought
academic advice from Senate on UEB’s proposal and we hear from Senator colleagues that this
advice is likely to be mixed. Rather than question this advice, we wish to bring to your attention
another source of highly informed opinion and to raise some critical issues of process and
The additional source of opinion is a letter from the Archaeology section of the British Academy,
the most distinguished grouping of academic specialists in this field. This letter was addressed to
members of Senate and Council, but Mr Tony Strike was unwilling to circulate it because of the
huge volume of correspondence in support of the Department of Archaeology already received
(primarily addressed to the VC and UEB). We append this letter, which situates in a wider strategic
context the case for maintaining the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield, reiterates the
Department’s view that the UEB proposal to disperse sub-fields of archaeology across the
University is doomed to failure, and also offers the advisory services of its members in planning a
more constructive way forward.
For our own part, we focus on process and governance, noting as background the following claims
by the University as to its principles and procedures:
A. We will behave with independence, consistency, honesty and transparency in all our
B. We have a longstanding commitment to widening participation and fair
C. It is vitally important that we all have opportunities to contribute to the direction of our
D. The University is proud of its origins and the role it has come to play in its city and
Process and governance
1. The UEB proposal to close the Department of Archaeology was informed by a report from
a February 2021 Review Panel. The University presents this Review [contra A above] as a
response to a letter from the Department to the VC. This letter in fact requested advice on the
Arts & Humanities Faculty’s raising of required A-level grades for new entrants and planned
closure of all the Department’s Undergraduate programmes, which in combination
undermined its prospects for financial viability. The University presents the requirement for
high A-level grades as enhancing the quality of student intake, but evidence supporting this is
slender (and non-existent for subjects not taught in schools, such as Archaeology), while
the Department has a strong track record of producing excellent graduates and thus
contributing to the University’s widening participation commitment [above B].
2. The DVC announced the Review on 18th November 2020, but no further information was
given about the process until the Department requested this in January 2021.
The Department requested data from the Planning and Insight Department to inform
participation in the review, but this was not made available. The Department was promised
the data pack, compiled for the Review by UEB, two weeks beforehand, but only received this
(on request) 6 working days before the Review (and after it had been sent to the Review
Panel), leaving little time for thorough perusal. Nonetheless, the data pack was found to
contain errors and misrepresentations [see Head of Department of Archaeology presentation
to Senate] that underpin UEB’s claim that the Department is unsuccessful in attracting
students (through inflated A-level requirements, University senior management effectively
diverts good students to competitor institutions). [multiple breaches of A above]
3. The Review included four meetings with staff, in which the Panel posed questions without
opportunity for discussion or consultation or for ideas from the Department [contrary to C
above]. In a meeting with students, the latter felt misled as to the purpose of the exchange
and that the Panel solicited negative responses. The students complained formally to the
University Research Ethics Committee, but were told that research ethics do not apply to
managerial processes [contra A above].
4. The Review Panel’s report was not shared with the Department of Archaeology (nor was
any opportunity for response given) before its presentation to UEB, but four months after the
Review the DVC presented its outcomes to staff and students verbally, making clear that she
considered survival of the Department of Archaeology unlikely. This view was later taken also
by UEB (unsurprisingly, as the Panel included 5 members of UEB, while the Department’s voice
has been silenced). The DVC’s presentation too included errors of fact (e.g. that the
Department’s two ‘Impact Case Studies’ submitted to the 2021 Research Excellence
Framework were led by staff who had since left – both ICS leaders are in fact still employed
here). Such errors were inevitable without meaningful consultation with the Department [A
and C above].
5. As soon as the review was announced, our Department of Lifelong Learning foundation
entry (mostly local mature students) for 2021 was closed [contra D above] and, following
UEB’s proposal to Council, the University has written to undergraduate applicants to
the Department for autumn 2021 (including mature students who have completed the
foundation programme [contra D]), effectively encouraging them to go elsewhere. Apparently
UEB sees the role of both Senate and Council as being to rubber-stamp their proposal [contra
To these repeated and grave failures of process and governance, we finally add that the UEB’s
proposal to close the Department of Archaeology flies in the face of a flood of objections, not only
from scholars and scholarly institutions nationally and internationally, but also from a wide array
of residents, civic representatives and cultural organisations in and around Sheffield. These local
objections reflect the success of the Department of Archaeology in engaging with local
communities and working with them to explore their heritage, history and sense of identity – a
much advertised University priority [D above].
Paul Halstead, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology
Glynis Jones, Emerita Professor of Archaeology