A petition launched in opposition to the planned closure of the archaeology department at the University of Worcester has attracted more than 4,000 signatures in recent days.
The closure followed an “unviable” decline in enrolments, the university said of the decision, which will axe five jobs.
Worcester became the latest institution to shut its archaeology department after the University of Sheffield announcement in June.
The petition claims the university has “limited evidence to support the view that such a course of study was likely to be viable on an ongoing basis”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Worcester said that “following a declining interest in studying archaeology, which has been seen UK-wide, the university has very regretfully taken the decision to close the remaining offer in this subject. Applicant numbers have been very low for several years and have now declined to the level where a course in archaeology at the university is simply unviable.”
A national “trend away from studying archaeology has proved to be deep-seated and there is no alternative but to close the offer of archaeology courses,” the university added. Current students will be supported to complete their degrees, Worcester University added.
The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) said it was “another significant blow to archaeology in the UK” that an “extremely well regarded” programme should close.
“The Department at Worcester exemplifies the extent to which archaeology, as a discipline, provides a unique skill set, blending academic research with vocational skillset ensuring students are well equipped to follow a wide range of career paths,” the CBA said.
We will continue to fight against this worrying trend of closures, progressing our ongoing work with @InstituteArch as well as supporting @ForArchaeology #Dig4Arch in challenging the threats facing our discipline.
— ArchaeologyUK (@archaeologyuk) August 18, 2021
CBA president Raksha Dave said that the loss of an archaeology department outside the Russell Group “will negatively affect the diversity of the discipline, and the workforce as a whole”. Historic England warned in 2016 there was a national shortage of archaeologists in the UK, although some in the profession argue shortages are due to low retention driven by low pay and job security.
Speaking in June, David Connolly, director of British Archaeological Jobs and Resources, an industry body, said: “Archaeology in Britain is facing something of a perfect storm. We have university departments proposing and enacting cuts and closures, a shortage of archaeologists and a planning process which undermines the safeguards for archaeological remains and our heritage.”