The University of Roehampton is faced with losing large numbers of posts in the Arts and Humanities as a result of university cuts. At the same time, other areas of the university are expanding, placing an unequal burden on budget savings in one area of teaching and research, including Classics. What follows is the letter sent on behalf of the WCC UK to the vice-chancellor and provost of the university. We encourage any members of the WCC UK or our community to send their own letters of support for the staff and students facing losing their jobs and degree programmes.
Dear Professors Ezingeard and Gough-Yates,
We are writing on behalf of the Women’s Classical Committee UK to express the very serious concern of our members at the news of the University of Roehampton’s plans to make significant funding and staffing cuts to Arts and Humanities. As a group working within the field of Classical Studies in the UK, weare dismayed at the effects these cuts will have on Classics at Roehampton, as well as across Arts and Humanities more broadly. Classics is a particularly successful subject at the university: the Roehampton Classics courses were ranked fifth in the UK in the Guardian league table 2020, one of only two non-Russell Group universities in the top ten for the subject, with exceptionally high scores for teaching satisfaction (96%) on a par with Durham and St. Andrews. In the most recent NSS survey, Classics received a score of 100%, showing colleagues’ outstanding level of teaching and its effectiveness.
The Arts and Humanities are not disposable, not ‘soft’ subjects or things that are just ‘nice to have’: they remain a crucial part of Higher Education in the UK. Theirstudy teaches written and verbal communication and skills of creative and critical thinking that cannot be automated but are essential across the workforce; they empower citizens; contribute to sustaining a vibrant culture and economy; give students cultural capital and rounded personal lives; and ultimately help to create a cohesive society. Their fully funded inclusion on the curriculum at Roehampton is made essential by the traditional make-up of the student body at the university. Many Roehampton students are from working-class backgrounds; and a large proportion are from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds. They are regularly the first in their families to go to university. Shrinking of the Arts and Humanities at Roehampton will reduce access for these communities and contribute to the exclusion of traditionally under-represented members of society from participating in the arts and creativeindustries.
Cuts of this magnitude will have a devastating effect on both the student experience and the quality of the research of whoever remains, and seriously harm planned innovation, such as new programmes in development, including a new MA in Environmental Humanities, due to launch next year. They will also harm the reputation of the University, demonstrating that it does not hold its own Arts and Humanities departments in high enough regard to provide adequate funding and support to them. As an organisation focusing on women inClassical Studies, we have been impressed by the equality of gender representation among Classics and Ancient History staff, and fear that these cutsrun the risk of damaging this balance, thus negatively affecting the University’s ability to claim the Athena Swan Bronze Award.
We understand that the present global situation is exceptional and puts Higher Education Institutions in a volatile position, and that management have a responsibility to the whole university community. Nevertheless, we strongly urgeyou to reconsider your plans and continue to support your excellent Arts and Humanities colleagues in their highly impressive and successful work. We look forward to hearing from you on this issue.
Laurence Totelin and April Pudsey
WCC UK Co-Chairs
On behalf of the members of the WCC UK