Staff and Students Dig for the Truth
Students protest against the closure of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA)
Calls of “shame” filled University Square last Wednesday as staff and students gathered in protest against the University’s decision to close the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA), where a reduction of funding in the department will have a massively negative effect on current and prospective students in the area. Furthermore, the proposal is forcing staff members in the department to question the certainty of their future at the University with a possible 17 compulsory redundancies.
Almost comically, the Save The IAA Campaign’s protest simultaneously coincided with Vice-Chancellor, David Eastwood’s visit to Chicago where he was presenting and publishing the work of the department. Despite hailing their renowned work, he has initiated such a far-reaching threat. It is nothing more than hypocrisy and a method to build his and the University’s international reputation.
With over 1800 people having signed the official petition (something Simon Furse tells us spans 30 metres if laid out) and a turnout of around 200 people to the protest, it is evident that this campaign has a vast amount of support outside of the IAA department. Following cuts made to the Sociology department, students have recognised what effects actions like this will have, and that the decisions are not contained.
The closure of this department would set a dangerous precedent for other departments at the University, with minds immediately drawn to the futures of the Social Sciences, Law and Business. Despite the University’s colossal turnover of £125 million in the previous five years, and the trebling of tuition fees, we are expected to sit back and accept the possible closure of these departments.
Simon Furse, Guild Vice President (Education) branded the University as having “real contempt for students”, and “keeping students in the dark” about the process by holding the consultation during the summer break.
The attitude was no different within the crowds; it was clear that the same thought was on everyone’s minds, despite their course or their position. Theology PHD Student, Will said it seemed that “once they’ve finished cutting Archaeology, they’ll cut other courses which don’t seem so lucrative”.
Meanwhile, also amongst the protestors, was Robert Killick OBE, who studied Archaeology at PHD level in the 1980s. Asked why he was at the protest, he said “I am here to support my fellow Archaeologists. It is a disgrace the University is closing such an illustrious institute, one that has many achievements to its name and is often reported in national press”.
Well-supported and a success, the march began at the Main Library before heading to the Vice-Chancellor’s Office in the Aston Webb building (where protestors were, hilariously, greeted with a small police presence) before returning to the main library.
It is appalling and disgusting that the University are considering such destructive action against such a fantastic department at the University, seriously affecting both students’ and staffs’ futures. These decisions are life-changing and it’s not something we should sit back and accept.