There is such a thing as sociology at Birmingham

Plan to scrap the subject is dropped along with threat of compulsory redundancies. John Morgan reports

April 21, 2010

Sociology will remain a teaching and research subject at the University of Birmingham following a campaign by staff and students.

A report to the university’s council had recommended that the department of sociology be scrapped and that an undergraduate programme in the subject be transferred to the School of Social Policy. Under the proposals, only three staff would have been retained and about 12 could have faced compulsory redundancy.

Last week, however, the council decided to transfer sociology to the department of political sciences and international studies along with six staff. It added that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

A university spokeswoman said sociology would “remain a vibrant research and teaching discipline”, but the discipline’s media, culture and society degree would be withdrawn.

A member of the sociology department, who asked not to be named, said that those not being transferred were being offered redeployment or a voluntary severance package.

The campaign to save the subject had resulted in “meaningful consultation” that had brought changes to the initial proposals, they added.

“We think that is a positive outcome in terms of protecting and developing sociology at Birmingham, and avoiding compulsory redundancies,” the staff member continued. “But students and staff are all disappointed at the withdrawal from activities in media, culture and society because we feel Birmingham was a world-leading brand in that area.”

The university had cited a decline in recruitment as the reason for ending the degree, the member of staff said.

A university spokeswoman said the council’s recommendations came after “a detailed consultation with staff and students over recent months, and a number of key points raised during the consultation were adopted in the final proposals”.

The media, culture and society degree would be withdrawn over “a period of time” and teaching for current students would not be affected.

The changes would be implemented “without compulsory redundancies”, the spokeswoman said.

“These changes reflect the University of Birmingham’s wider academic vision, focusing on academic excellence and investment in areas of world-leading research and teaching,” she added.

“While the sector faces economic challenges, we are building a sustainable economic future for the university and will be investing in academic excellence.”

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