Student protest saves Sheffield biblical studies

October 22, 2009

Plans to end undergraduate courses in biblical studies at the University of Sheffield have been shelved after the governing body ruled that students had not been fully consulted.

The faculty of arts and humanities had recommended after a review that the department of biblical studies be reconfigured as a postgraduate research centre.

The faculty commissioned the review in March after a fall in undergraduate demand, which raised concerns about the department's sustainability.

After heavy lobbying by students and the University and College Union, the university's senate said it would not consider the faculty's recommendations because the students had not been adequately involved in the decision.

A university spokeswoman said: "In the light of feedback from staff and students, the vice-chancellor has agreed that the department is no longer under review."

The faculty had been asked to produce short-, medium- and long-term plans for the department.

"Of immediate concern will be the viability of the undergraduate intake for the biblical studies degree in 2010, which is currently suspended," the spokeswoman said.

Writing on the Sheffield Student Union website, Holly Taylor, the education officer, says students were unaware of the closure plans until shortly before the senate meeting.

After launching a petition to protest against the proposals, students were invited to meet the chairman of the review group.

Later, at the senate meeting, Sheffield's vice-chancellor, Keith Burnett, apologised for the lack of communication, Ms Taylor says.

"Many staff didn't even know about the proposals and were appalled by the lack of consultation," she writes.

Three academics and one member of support staff have already left the department under a university-wide voluntary severance scheme this year, leaving three academics and one administrator. The UCU has lodged a collective grievance on behalf of the staff. The university spokeswoman said managers were "meeting urgently to understand their concerns".

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