Over the past few months, we have become increasingly concerned by developments at the University of East London, particularly as these impact on the future of Sociology both at UEL and in the UK more broadly. A programme of restructuring geared towards vocational education for community leadership has been positioned as an alternative to the wider strategy of critical thinking and research driven education. These are not alternatives. Critical thinking and research-driven evidence are essential for ALL education – perhaps especially for community leadership – particularly given the profound social challenges of the present day. The current restructuring will mean compulsory redundancy for eight social scientists at UEL including sociologists who lead significant and influential research Centres (The Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging and the Centre for Narrative Research). We believe that this reduction in capacity to research and teach Sociology will be deeply damaging: to the ability of remaining staff to teach Sociology, to the vocational skills of students at UEL, to the wellbeing and social cohesion of communities served by UEL, and to the wider academic and stakeholder community whose work is informed by sociological research.
The BSA takes seriously its charitable role in advancing public education by promoting the interests of Sociology and sociologists. To pursue our mission, we seek to maintain research and teaching capacity in Sociology in the UK. We consider that the actions of UEL in these circumstances are not conducive to our charitable objectives. For this reason we advise members to carefully consider their engagement with UEL until such time as the matter is resolved.
We are not inviting or encouraging anyone to breach any current contracts but we are recommending that, going forward, members consider the following action:
- refuse to take up roles of external examiner or reviewer at UEL;
- refuse to speak at UEL events;
- refuse to support quality assurance processes at UEL;
- refuse to use UEL venues or facilities for academic events.
This action will send a strong message in support of colleagues at UEL and will also focus attention on the vital role of Sociology for the critical analysis of society.
The BSA is committed to doing whatever it can wherever needed to support Sociology and sociologists. Situations similar to those at UEL may be emerging at other universities in the UK. We encourage members to keep us informed and we will apply the same approach if necessary in the legitimate pursuit of our charitable objectives.