University of London 'plans closure' of Institute of English Studies

Proposal prompts resignation of advisory board chair

May 17, 2014

Major concerns have been expressed about plans to close the Institute of English Studies, which forms part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.

In a letter sent to the IES advisory board on 15 May, Roger Kain - dean and chief executive of the SAS – explains that the vice‐chancellor’s executive group was “recommending a concentration of funding into a smaller number of institutes”. This was in response to news that money from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for the SAS “will be cut by 3% with effect from 2014-15”.

Specific proposals included “merging the academic activity of the Institute of English Studies into the Institute of Historical Research (a centre for Palaeography and the History of the Book) and into the Institute of Modern Languages Research (a centre for Comparative Literature)”, along with a similar merger for the “financially fragile” Institute of Musical Research, the letter says.

These recommendations, Professor Kain continues, “will be put to the Board of SAS on 19 June 2014 and subsequently to Collegiate Council and the [SAS] Board of Trustees for approval in July. The changes will take effect from 1 August.”

In response to this letter, the chair of the advisory board, David McKitterick – vice-master of Trinity College, Cambridge – wrote to Professor Kain resigning with immediate effect.

The recommendation to close the IES, he argues in the letter seen by Times Higher Education, “is bound to have repercussions. It will damage the reputation of the University, calling into question its academic commitment both to the subject and to wider responsibilities…

“The proposed fragmentation does not add up to a commitment to the subject, nor does it come half-way to defining it. The falling away of staff…adds further to the impression of abandoning national commitments.”

Anne Varty, head of English at Royal Holloway, University of London, noted that Professor Kain’s letter “mov[ed] from ‘recommendation’ to ‘changes’ with expert grammatical speed. There has been no consultation with stakeholders as far as I and my fellow heads of English in UoL are aware.”

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Reader's comments (3)

The Institute of English Studies has been a fantastic success for English nationally, housing and helping all manner of events, societies, conferences and broad developments - pedagogical and research-based - across our discipline. It became even more vital when the English Subject Centre closed down, and alongside with the planned depletion of the HEA, the closure of the IES is very worrying.
IES allows universities to collaborate ideas and further important research. English is at the forefront of cross-disciplinary studies and IES must remain open to continue fostering good relations between universities and subjects nationwide. Closing it cannot be justified!
For two decades the IES has been a key resource both for those in London and for the wider academic community in the UK; its huge range of conferences, lectures and seminars have been vital to the research and development of hundreds of academics, PhD students and MA students, and many scholarly and author-based societies have used its offices. It has done its job efficiently, and indeed built up a large surplus. Its planned closure in response to a relatively small (and possibly temporary) funding cut is incredibly shortsighted, and its closure would in my view do nothing but further weaken the reputation of the University of London.

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