Dear Professor Broderick,
Subject: The Future of Sociology at the University of East London
As President of the British Sociological Association I am writing to express our deep concern about recent events at your University, which seem to amount to a systematic dismantling of research capacity in the Social Sciences Department. In these times of turbulent change, widening social inequalities, rapid technological transformation, and all-too-clear pressures to create more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous societies, governments, businesses and students alike now recognise that Social Sciences are more necessary than ever. Indeed, we understand that UEL, like many other UK Universities, has seen increased student numbers in the Social Sciences over recent years, including 2020. In this context, the decision to proceed with radical cuts to staffing, including (as we understand it) the compulsory redundancy of most professorial staff in the Social Sciences Department, and the removal of research time from the remaining staff, is hard to fathom.
Careers education is critical at the present time. To achieve this, teaching and research go hand in hand. The next generation of policy makers, business and community leaders deserve research-led teaching and to be part of a vibrant, cutting-edge research culture, particularly so for social groups whose access to elite Universities is limited for various reasons. To address inclusion and inequality, these students must have access to the highest quality educational resources possible. With respect, the UEL message at present appears to be that their students do not merit leading professors or active research staff. In this context, the turnover of remaining staff is likely to rise, further undermining capacity in Social Sciences and the futures of those who remain.
The Department of Social Sciences at UEL has particular significance for the British Sociological Association. The Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging made a significant contribution to our recent work on Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment, along with colleagues from the Centre for Narrative Research. I am sure that this also sent a strong message to your students and potential students about UEL’s commitment to social justice. Undermining the long-term sustainability of this Centre will also send a strong message, both to your local community and to Social Scientists around the UK and internationally.
I appreciate that the decisions regarding Social Sciences sit within a wider set of considerations about the future of UEL and understand the pressures facing all Universities at present, albeit some more than others. However, I strongly urge you to stop and reconsider, halt any further degradation in the university’s capacity to teach social science students, and send a positive message to the people and the communities that surround and will support the future of UEL.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Professor Susan Halford
President, British Sociological Association
Letter sent via email on 20 October 2020 to:
Professor Amanda Broderick, Vice Chancellor, University of East London
Board of Governors, University of East London c/o:
Anulifa Ajufo, Chair of the Board of Governors
Jim Benson, Board of Governors Administrator