The University of Sheffield’s Archaeology department, which is facing the threat of permanent closure, received a huge show of support from Greece on Friday.
The department has seen dwindling numbers of students over the past few years and the University is considering its closure because of this.
Sheffield’s Archaeology department receives support from Greece
However, the department has received signs of international support, with influential Greeks across the country rallying to save archaeology at Sheffield.
The Vice-Mayor of Zagori in northwestern Greece, Yiannis Tsaparis, wrote a letter to the department to convey his support for the study at Sheffield. He highlighted how influential the school has been to furthering understanding of Greek archaeology as well as its role in supporting many Greek scholars in their path toward climbing the ranks of academia in Greece and beyond.
In Tsaparis’ letter, he says “Zagori is grateful for the Department’s contribution in furthering our knowledge of the Greek past and Zagori in particular.
“Such a prestigious department is impossible to fail in such a short time and, as a decision maker, I believe that the reasons for its decline (if any) should be sought in managerial choices rather than the archaeological academic community.
“I urge you to reconsider and support and invest in the department to ensure the future of archaeology at The University of Sheffield.”
However, his was not the only show of support for the Archaeology department at the university coming from Greece. The Postgraduate and PhD Candidate branch Student Union from the University of Crete also expressed how much they felt the loss of the UK university department would harm the academic community.
Their letter read, “From England to Greece and the rest of Europe, the implemented policies on Higher Education and especially on the humanities have led the public universities in systematical underfunding, understaffing and extortionate college tuition fees when those departures do not comply with the private economic interests of their operation.
“Without taking into consideration the scientific contribution and the labour of many people, the threat of closure of the non-profitable university departments appears not only as a disciplinary rule but as a possible outcome which is really connected with the academic community and our societies in general.
“The student union of Postgraduate students and PhD candidates of the University of Crete supports the following petition for the collection of signatures, an initiative by the students at the University of Sheffield against the closure of the Department of Archaeology, a potential result of the departmental review.”
The Student Union pointed to systemic issues endemic to academic departments across the world of chronic understaffing and underfunding.
Board review may lead to the closure of the department
The University of Sheffield’s Executive Board (UEB) proposed the closure of the Department of Archaeology following an institutional review last month.
The claimed that the department was no longer viable due to dwindling student numbers, but that it wishes to continue to support the field.
However, the department’s fate is not set in stone quite yet: the announcement by the board triggered outrage, both within the university community and internationally, which may lead to a reconsideration. The Senate of the university will meet to discuss the issue on June 23, but the final decision is in the hands of the University Council, meeting on July 12.
People have not given up hope to save the University’s Archaeology Department, and a demonstration has been planned for two days before the Senate meeting, on June 21.