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University to leave Archaeology in the past

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Announcement made without any discussion with staff or students in the department

David Shepherd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor announced the decision via e-mail

Prof. David Shepherd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor announced the decision via e-mail on Friday

Senior members of staff at Bangor University have taken the decision to discontinue the single honours undergraduate Archaeology degree from September 2017. The decision was made without consultation of staff working within the school of History, Welsh History and Archaeology, students studying the relevant subjects or stakeholders. Staff and students were informed of the decision via an e-mail from Professor David Shepherd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor stating that the aim was to place the university’s long-term financial position on a firmer and more robust footing.

If the decision is to remain in place, it would most likely result in a number of leading archaeologists losing their jobs at the university, which would in turn have repercussions for students currently studying any History, Archaeology or Heritage courses in the university. The loss of highly qualified and experienced staff would reduce the amount and variety of modules which the school values greatly. In addition to this, dissertation topics which students would otherwise be able to choose freely knowing full well that there is the knowledge and expertise waiting to support and guide them through the dissertation process would be limited.

Professor Raimund Karl started the petition which has already gained over a thousand signatures

Prof. Raimund Karl started the petition which has already gained over a thousand signatures

Since the decision has become public knowledge, there has been widespread reaction with students and staff alike left feeling bemused and disillusioned. This feeling has travelled further than Bangor following the creation of an online petition led by professor Raimund Karl in conjunction with Bangor university’s history and archaeology society. The petition has been created with the aim of encouraging the university to immediately reverse the decision, and to put a consultation process in place. The petition states that “Bangor Archaeology is 8th in the UK in the Complete University Guide (2017) and 4th in the Whatuni Guide (2016), and recruitment on Bangor’s single honours Archaeology degree continues to steadily and sustainably increase year on year”.

When contacted, Professor Raimund Karl said that

“It seems rather remarkable that the University wants to discontinue its single honours Archaeology degree at a time like this. Not just has the number of applicants been rising consistently and the degree been received exceptionally well – it has shot up through league tables in the past few years and is now rated the 8th best single honours archaeology degree in the UK by the Complete Universities guide. But also, graduate employment opportunities in archaeology look particularly bright. English Heritage, the Council for British Archaeology and the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists have all just recently warned that there are insufficient numbers of trained archaeologists available to cope with the demand created by recently announced government investment into infrastructure projects. There will be plenty of trained archaeologists needed to cope with HS2 (the planned high-speed railway), the Heathrow expansion, and the many housing development projects planned for the near future.”

He went on to say that

“the University management apparently is unaware of all these facts, because it has not properly consulted and not properly thought through its decision. Instead of arbitrarily cutting successful units, it should properly consult and refrain from taking hasty, ill-informed steps that will cause more harm than good to everyone affected.”

The petition has been signed by people as far away as Chile, and at the time of writing it has 1,320 signatures. The petition is rife with comments from graduates, lecturers at Bangor and elsewhere as well as current students.

Away from the petition, Lauren Lewsley who studies History, Heritage and Archaeology commented that “Bangor has one of the best Archaeology departments in the UK with fantastic lecturers and gets rave reviews on the National Students’ Survey (NSS) which the University loves to mention at open days. If Bangor drop Archaeology now, not only will it have negative effects on current students, but also for past students as their degree will lose its credibility because Bangor will no longer have a reputation in professional archaeology. For current students, the closure will mean losing staff, all of whom are vital to the school and will therefore hinder their dissertations. The university did this without consultation with students or staff and if they had they would have soon realised that they were making a mistake for both, their students and the university. Hopefully with the petition Bangor students can show that this is not in the students’ interest and open up consultation with the university. Making a stand now could also make the university think twice about so easily dropping other courses in the university.” This is a sentiment which has been echoed by many from all over on the petition.

Many comments on the petition query whether the university should be spending so much on sports or the ‘Caban’ art installation outside Pontio, the budget for which was £109,000, if they are unable to support educational courses. Some comments have also been aimed at high-ranking Bangor university staff regarding other historic financial decisions.

It is becoming apparent that other areas of the university are also under threat, with the School of Lifelong Learning which has offered part-time evening classes to adults for years, also being planned to shut down. It is unclear whether other courses will be under threat.

For those interested, the petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/bangor-university-threat-to-archaeology

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Matty Rowland

Travel Sub-Editor 2016/17

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