In a decision that was made public to staff and students in week 10 of the spring term, management withdrew the undergraduate Linguistics programme at Sussex. This is despite the fact that this programme:
- Is ranked 2nd in country in the Independent’s Good University guide, with an overall score of 99.1 (and ranked 8th in the Times)
- Has some of the best students at Sussex in terms of entry tariffs (current A-level requirement AAB-ABB),
- Is in high demand, with one of the strongest applications-to-admissions ratios at Sussex (currently there is only about one place for every nine applicants)
- Has the highest graduate placement and employment rate of all linguistics programmes in the UK (75% six months after completing the degree)
- Contributes courses to many interdisciplinary programmes in humanities, education and sciences
This decision was taken with no consultation with students or staff and bypassed the University’s own procedures. There was no discussion within the English department, and the withdrawal has not yet been approved by the School of Humanities Teaching and Learning Committee. Formally, the withdrawal has therefore not been ratified. Nevertheless, since admissions for 2009 are already being withdrawn, the proposal is rendered a fait accompli.
While current linguistics cohorts (72 students) will be taught out to completion of their degrees, the admission of new students for 2009 has already been stopped, and their offers have been withdrawn or changed into English Language offers. All teaching in Linguistics will therefore cease in 2011.
The decision to withdraw Linguistics follows less than two years after the old department of Linguistics and English Language was merged with English, a move which was then justified as a move to ensure sustainability of the programmes. In previous years, the number of permanent research staff had already been reduced from 7 to 3, putting the subject in a precarious situation.
This pummelling of Linguistics has reverberations and consequences that will long echo at Sussex. The move is indicative of an increasingly top-down management process, which other departments and subjects may also be affected by in the future.