The University of the West of England is considering closing its politics and international relations courses as it prioritises vocational subjects, prompting warnings about the future of such disciplines at post-1992 universities.
Current students were told on 12 February that the courses were under review, just two days before the Bristol institution’s academic board met to consider the issue.
A UWE spokesman said departmental staff were aware that an initial review of programmes had been carried out three years ago and were told the latest information on 11 February.
The proposal is part of a “portfolio review” of programmes being considered by Steve West, vice-chancellor of the university.
He said that course quality was not the problem.
“Our difficulty rests…with a significant drop in market demand over the past two years in these subject areas compared with large increases…for our professionally recognised and practice-led programmes,” he added.
Campaigners have set up a petition - backed by UWE Students’ Union and branches of the University and College Union at the institution and the University of Bristol - to save the department.
So far it has gathered more than 600 signatures.
Emily Hazell, a politics student and one of those campaigning against the closure, said that maintaining more “academic” subjects such as politics at UWE was important because the institution caters for a “different section of the population” than neighbours such as Bristol and the University of Exeter.
“Politics is stereotyped as one of those elitist degrees but we do well in getting students in from diverse backgrounds. I think it would be a shame if just the Russell Group, which doesn’t do so well on diversity, was the only one left doing politics,” she said.
Professor West said he would continue to “explore a range of options and will take all of the views and information I have received into account”. He expected to come to a decision no later than 1 March.
Students in the department have been told that whatever the outcome, the university will support them in the completion of their studies at UWE.