As many students adorn campuses across the North for the very first time, it was revealed last week that, despite protests from staff and students, Queen’s was going to go ahead with the recommendations set out in its ‘Shape and Size’ review, and cut the BA Sociology programme at the university.
It’s a decision that came after months of campaigning from the ‘Save Our Schools’ campaign, a collective of students and staff who are committed to challenging QUB’s slash-and-burn approach to academia. Bizarrely, this decision also comes after the QUB sociology department reviewed the sustainability and worth of the BA programme – something backed by a consultation which recommends both the BA sociology and anthropology programmes be retained.
The decision has been slammed by the Queen’s branch of the University & Colleges Union (UCU), who have declared that QUB’s decision is “ham fisted and ill-judged”. Across the street, QUBSU wasted no time in issuing a statement that committed them to opposing the decision, criticising Queen’s for neglecting its “social responsibility”.
Queen’s isn’t the only institution welcoming the new academic year with a scythe. Ulster University is pursuing cuts to its Irish studies department. And this comes after crippling cuts to other modern languages courses earlier in the year, an ill-thought-out decision that has been met with derision from many sides. The recent decision to make three staff in the department redundant has triggered a petition, which has been signed by over 161 academics from an eye-watering 18 countries so far.
The Vice Chancellor for Queen’s is frequently caught in the headlines, with bumbling statements about the humanities (something of a Boris Johnson tribute act). The cuts he is synonymous with are in keeping with the wider agenda at work across our higher education institutions, regardless of healthy bank sheets.
It’s a new academic year, but familiar struggles lie ahead for staff and students across the North.