Liverpool lifts threat of closure from three departments

Reprieve depends on meeting targets in research performance, writes Rebecca Attwood

May 15, 2009

Three departments threatened with closure at the University of Liverpool have been told they can remain open if they can demonstrate improvements in their research output.

In March, it emerged that the university was considering closing its departments of statistics, philosophy, and politics and communication studies because they showed no “world-leading” 4* research in the 2008 research assessment exercise.

An internal document seen by Times Higher Education at the time said the results raised questions “about whether the level of performance… is at an acceptable level for a Russell Group university”.

The view of the senior management team and deans, the document said, was that “given the need to invest in excellence, it is not feasible to continue to support these areas in future”.

A further five departments – civil engineering, cancer studies, dentistry, American studies and sociology – were also reviewed.

But this week, staff and students who have campaigned to save the disciplines claimed a victory.

In an email to staff, the vice-chancellor, Sir Howard Newby, says that closure will no longer be recommended, provided that the departments show progress.

“As a result of the formal reviews of the eight units of assessment in which the university was in the lowest quartile nationally in the RAE, each affected department has been asked to prepare a recovery plan. These specify clear targets for research output and improving research performance that will be monitored by faculty deans and academic committee,” the message says.

“Provided these plans are accepted by the departments concerned and by academic committee, we will recommend them to senate and the university council. Assuming demonstrable progress is made towards achieving these targets, the option of closure for the School of Politics and Communications studies, the departments of philosophy, and statistics, will not be pursued.”

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