Sheffield Hallam drops English lit degrees

The university said students can still study modules in English literature and that no jobs are under threat

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) will stop offering degrees in English Literature from 2023 in response to “latest application trends”, it confirmed.

The university says the decision does not entail job cuts. Students will still be able to study modules in English Literature at SHU, but only as part of generalist English degrees.

Dr Mary Peace, a senior lecturer in English literature at SHU, tweeted: “English lit degree at Sheffield Hallam is being “suspended”. University responding to Government who will no longer fund degrees where 60% students don’t end up in “highly skilled” jobs within 6 months.

“And falling recruitment due to lift of cap on student numbers at old universities. We have ‘world leading’ research and excellent teaching, but we can’t compete on cultural capital. The demise of humanities in the post 92s is cultural vandalism.”

The news will stoke fears expressed by the University and College Union (UCU) that arts and humanities degrees are in peril in many corners of the country. UCU has accused the government of instigating a “bonfire of arts and humanities provision” with policies that the union says underfund and undervalue the fields.

Figures compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggest a 12.5% drop in enrolments in English literature at the university between 2019-20 and 2020-21. According to the universities admissions service Ucas, acceptances for English studies, which includes English literature, dropped from 9,480 in 2012 to 6,435 in 2021. These figures are, however, only indicative, as they do not account for growth in students studying combined honours or reclassified degrees.

The decision by Sheffield Hallam to shut down its English literature course is as shocking as it is depressing
– Jo Grady, UCU

A spokesperson for the university said SHU – which offers more than 600 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees – keeps its “courses under constant review to ensure that they align to the latest demands from students and employers”.

The spokesperson continued: “A small number of courses are being suspended or closed, which has been communicated to the relevant staff. These changes are predominantly driven by providing the best possible learning offer in the context of the latest application trends. They do not involve job losses.

“We are proud of all our English courses at Sheffield Hallam and we are looking forward to welcoming cohorts in English Literature, English, and Creative Writing programmes starting in September 2022, all of which we are recruiting for.

“From 2023 we will be offering English Literature study within our broad-based English degree, which will allow students to shape their own exploration of the subject across Language, Literature and Creative Writing.

“More broadly, we believe that study in the arts and humanities is hugely valuable for our wider society. Graduates in these areas go on to enjoy successful careers and have a real positive impact on our economy, health, wellbeing and education. These subjects are a vital part of our offer as a university and we will continue to provide a wide range of arts and humanities courses led by some outstanding teams of academics.”

Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “The decision by Sheffield Hallam to shut down its English literature course is as shocking as it is depressing but seems part of a wider agenda being forced on universities by the government against the arts and humanities.

“Decisions like this and at other universities such as Huddersfield and Wolverhampton will be hugely damaging for access, creating geographical cold spots as many courses are dropped.

“The universities most vulnerable are those with a higher number of less well-off students and it is unconscionable to deny them the chance to study subjects like literature, art, drama and music.”


Read more: Govt must reverse ‘dangerous assault’ on HE – Grady

Related news: Degrees in danger

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