The Senate Paper (The Review of the Department) and some other useful background information,
An Excellent link called 'Sheffield University, The Department of Biblical Studies, And Insider Information' can be read here.
------------The Senate, 7 October 2009
Review of the Department of Biblical Studies:
This paper advises Senate of the outcomes of the recent review of the Department of Biblical Studies, and seeks approval of the recommendation that undergraduate programmes involving Biblical Studies be discontinued once existing students and those accepted for entry in 2009-10 have completed their degrees.
1. Background to the review
1.1 The review was commissioned by the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts & Humanities with the agreement of the University Executive Board to consider the viability and sustainability of the Department in terms of its programme delivery, student demand, research potential, staffing and financial position and to identify ways forward.
1.2 A project team was established to undertake the review, membership of which comprised Professor Dominic Shellard (Chair), Professor John Barclay (University of Durham; external adviser), Professor Mike Braddick (History), Dr Stephen Beck (Mechanical & Process Engineering; Senate representative), Valerie Cotter (Faculty of Operations), Richard Maxted (Human Resources) and David Whittaker (Academic Services).
1.3 The review process included consultation with staff in Biblical Studies, Heads of Departments with which Biblical Studies offers dual degrees, academic colleagues and peers within the HE sector, the University Executive Board, Trades Unions, and those sections of the professional services with a relevant advisory role.
2. Key Findings
2.1 The review group considered that the Department should be justifiably proud of its achievements to date, particularly in the areas of research excellence and student satisfaction. It noted that the Department is highly regarded within the wider discipline and that it has offered a unique undergraduate degree, both as a single and dual option.
2.2 However, over a number of years the sustainability of the Department has been jeopardised by loss of key staff and declining student demand. Demand for undergraduate programmes has been variable and uncertain year on year and the quota has been reduced to reflect this. In contrast, there is clear demand for postgraduate places (particularly pgr), including from overseas applicants. However, the current staffing position of the Department, taking account of VSS departures, means that meeting existing ug and pg demand and developing further markets for postgraduate provision would require high levels of investment in additional staffing, and would need to address the current lack of coverage in the areas of New Testament.
2.3 The Department’s historical, current and financial position has been considered in detail, and the review group recognised that the current configuration of the department would not be able to sustain growth in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, in such a way that its contribution would be closer to the Faculty norm.
3. Review outcomes
3.1 In the light of its analysis of the issues facing the Department, the review group has concluded that the Department of Biblical Studies does not have a viable future as a stand-alone department offering an undergraduate degree. This is a result of a combination of circumstances and is in no way a reflection on the dedication or quality of the staff within the Department. Having considered a range of options for the future of the Department (including maintaining the status quo; refocusing activity; widening the subject areas covered; and external relocation or internal merger), the review group has made the following key recommendations, which have been endorsed by both the Faculty and University Executive Boards:
(a) that the 2009-10 entry to undergraduate programmes involving Biblical Studies should be the last and that the Department should cease to function as a single entity:
(b) that undergraduate programmes involve Biblical Studies should be maintained for existing students, and that measures should be taken to ensure that they receive the high quality education and student experience which they have been promised;
(c) that the Department’s academic staff should be transferred to the departments in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities most suited to supporting their longer term careers;
(d) that the development of a Biblical Studies research centre be progressed with a view to providing a focus for postgraduate study and research and a continued point of contact and collaboration for academic staff irrespective of their new home departments, thus ensuring the continuation of scholarship in this area.
3.2 It is recognised that implementation of these recommendations will require a number of transitional provisions to be put in place in order to meet ongoing commitments to students. These are being actively progressed by the Faculty.
4. Action requested of the Senate
Senate is requested formally to approve the Faculty’s recommendation that undergraduate programmes involving Biblical Studies be discontinued once existing students and those accepted for entry in 2009-10 have completed their degrees.
Professor Phil Powrie
Faculty of Arts & Humanities