Closure of Institute of English Studies would be a ‘disaster’

University of London proposal will have negative impact on the discipline and postgraduates, academics warn

May 22, 2014

Source: Bournemouth News/Rex

Outrageous fortune? Academics express dismay at threat to close institute

The planned “dismemberment” of “the de facto national centre for research facilitation in English” will be a “disaster” that will also seriously harm training for postgraduates in the subject.

Those are among the views from academics expressing outrage at proposals to close the Institute of English Studies at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.

The plans were set out in a letter sent to the IES advisory board on 15 May by Roger Kain, dean and chief executive of the school, who said measures needed to be taken after England’s funding council cut the school’s funding by 3 per cent from next year.

The vice-chancellor’s executive group had recommended merging the “academic activity” of the institute with the Institute of Historical Research and Institute of Modern Languages Research, he writes. The plans still had to be put to the collegiate council, the school’s board and the University of London’s board of trustees, but “the changes will take effect from 1 August”.

“The announcement came as a bolt from the blue,” said Gordon Campbell, professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Leicester, who has joined forces with Anne Varty, head of English at Royal Holloway, University of London, to lead a Save the IES steering group.

The IES, said Professor Campbell, had become “a home for long-term research projects not subject to the research excellence framework” such as scholarly editions of major authors, “which managers who want short-term results don’t like”.

For Robert Eaglestone, professor of contemporary literature and thought at Royal Holloway, “the dismemberment of the institute will be a disaster for the discipline of English. While based in the University of London, the IES is the de facto national centre for research facilitation in English, running conferences on every aspect of English from Old and Middle English to contemporary literature and advanced literary theory.”

Benjamin Poore, a PhD student in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London, said the IES hosted seminars organised by postgraduates, giving them “vital professional experience”.

“The precarious reality of contemporary postgraduate life…will not be helped in any way by the dissolution of what is effectively a support network for young researchers facing a difficult future,” he said.

A spokesman for the University of London emphasised that the IES’ major scholarly projects would continue at other institutes under the plans, which he also stressed were a recommendation that still needed approval by the board of trustees.

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