Protests to save the Archaeology department at Sheffield University Photo: Alistair Tice (uploaded 28/07/2021)
Protests to save the Archaeology department at Sheffield University Photo: Alistair Tice (uploaded 28/07/2021)

Don’t let Tories scrap my degree and others like it

Jo Hall, English Literature student, Sheffield Hallam

Sheffield Hallam University plans to scrap the stand alone English literature course for new entrants in 2023. From then on, it will only be buried in another degree course as a secondary module.

Sheffield Hallam has given no explanation beyond a ‘shake-up’ of how English is taught. This is part of a wider attack on the humanities.

The Tory government is planning new attacks. Universities could face penalties for courses where less than 60% of graduates are in study or professional jobs 15 months after completion.

Dr Mary Peace, an English literature lecturer at Sheffield Hallam, described these cuts as “cultural vandalism… what kind of society will we have if there is no place for people from all social classes and backgrounds to have the chance to read and think?”

The Tories’ Office for Students has threatened to cut funding for ‘low-value’ courses. By ‘value’, they mean what matters to the capitalists.

We face real dangers to education. Limited academic freedom is under attack, with the government’s focus on ‘financial return’. They want to keep the next generation right where they can.

Assault on poor students

This is an assault on working-class arts. Just over 40% of Hallam students are from poor economic backgrounds.

Michelle Donelan has now resigned as Tory education secretary. But when she was in the Tory government, she said: “Courses that do not lead students on to work or further study fail both the students, who pour their time and effort in, and the taxpayer, who picks up a substantial portion of the cost.”

It is true that graduate work for humanities and arts students is low-paid, with many courses under the Tories’ self-imposed thresholds for beginning to pay back student loans. But that is the fault of private companies as well as the government failing to create decent jobs.

Donelan claims certain courses will inevitably result in underemployment. However, it is only inevitable under one context: capitalism, which Donelan and peers want to protect.

The Tory government isn’t interested in education but, rather, what education can do for them – streamlining people into profit-making industries. The Tories don’t want the arts to be for us, despite it often being made by us. They want to keep it an elite pastime, not a legitimate working-class livelihood.