Council leader urges university to think twice on course plan.

Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis has written to the University of Sheffield to express his great concern about proposals to potentially close its Department of Archaeology.

Councillor Lewis, who holds an MA in Archaeology and Heritage, is urging the university to reconsider its plans, calling the department ‘a powerhouse of international research value’ and saying it is an ‘asset to be valued, nurtured, and invested in’.

Councillor Lewis’s letter is reproduced in full below.

“It is with great concern and sadness that I learn of the proposals to potentially close the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology.

The archaeology department has an enviable and longstanding reputation as one of the best in the UK, principally earned through its unrivalled contribution to prehistoric research on both the UK and world scale over a number of decades. The list of past and present staff reads like a who’s who of the pre-eminent prehistorians of the last half century: their work has inspired generations of students and enormously advanced our understanding of the past through national and international research agendas.

In addition to this international reputation I am also much impressed by the work of the Department in my own county of Derbyshire, again going back decades to the long-running research projects at Roystone Grange and Gardoms Edge, carried out in collaboration with our local communities, and into the present day with Colin Merrony’s work at Castleton and Kevin Kuykendal’s association with Creswell Crags.

Derbyshire County Council has valued its partnership working with the Archaeology Department, delivering successful gap-year studentships for archaeology undergraduates within our Historic Environment Record team, and more recently working together to explore World Heritage status for Creswell Crags and to steer future research at the site.

This work has a real and tangible legacy, with students receiving a world-class training in archaeological practice, local communities in Derbyshire empowered with lifelong skills and new horizons, and the unrivalled expertise of your academic staff contributing to the future conservation and management of Derbyshire’s rich heritage.

Skilled archaeologists are currently in high demand due to the pace of development and redevelopment, and the delivery of major infrastructure projects such as HS2.

It is therefore of critical concern that Higher Education continues to deliver skilled archaeology graduates – indeed Sheffield is currently in the process of applying for CIfA accreditation of its degree programmes in recognition of this aim.

The skills of Sheffield graduates have long been in demand within the commercial sphere because of their strong grounding in both archaeological theory and practice, and they are represented in large numbers at all levels of the archaeological profession both locally and further afield.

The loss of the Sheffield department as a centre of training excellence would be sorely felt in our region and would contribute to a growing skills shortage at a time of rapid expansion. In conclusion, your department is a powerhouse of international research value, strong local roots, and economic value. It is an asset to be valued, nurtured, and invested in.”