The social good

September 29, 2016

The decision by senior managers at Queen’s-University Belfast to close its single honours degree in sociology is an abdication of the university’s responsibility to offer students in Northern Ireland the broadest opportunity to study our society. We note that no reason has been given for the closure, which may well result in a loss of posts at the university.

Over the past few months, sociologists at Queen’s have proposed a series of upgrades and changes that would strengthen the single honours degree; their ideas have been dismissed by this decision.

That the strength and diversity of sociology is vital to Queen’s is borne out by the fact that it is taught as part of seven other programmes, including criminology and social policy. It is illogical that it now cannot be taught as a separate degree in its own right.

We suspect that rather than taking an objective look at the importance of sociology, the university’s managers are switching resources to those courses that score highly in the research excellence framework, and so bring in extra funding.

But education is too important to play the game of league tables, and the insights of sociology, and the rounded view of society that it offers its students, should be valued beyond their immediate financial worth. Sociological insights are vital for understanding the structures of our society, and sociological research on ethnicity, employment, gender, sport, health and many other important areas features regularly in the media.

The university’s Senate should now consider and reject this decision, and so maintain this vitally important resource for Northern Ireland and higher education.

The British Sociological Association

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