Sociology schools and departments in all university sectors across the UK have faced and are facing harmful and deep reaching cuts and restructuring. Staff have left institutions through voluntary severances and compulsory redundancies. Teaching and research have been affected by that loss as have many local communities in which universities are situated. The personal consequences for sociology colleagues who have lost their jobs are profound.

What’s happening? A recent report by the Office for Students predicts that nearly two-thirds of HEIs could be in deficit by 2026/27 if no urgent action is taken. The causes are multiple and vary across the UK. Issues such as the cost-of-living crisis, inflation and changes to immigration policy that have resulted in a decline in overseas student numbers have all contributed to the current dire financial situation faced by many HEIs. Fundamentally, higher education is underfunded across the UK by central and devolved governments.

Goldsmiths is the most recent and high profile instance of cuts. 17 out of 24 staff (71%) are at risk of redundancy. The Sociology department there has led on developing innovative teaching and research and the proposed restructuring would have a devastating effect on their ground-breaking achievements.  If all of these threatened redundancies go ahead, staffing numbers could reach unsustainably low levels, and the pressure on staff could become intolerable. The distinctive inclusive and diverse profile of the department could also be compromised.

This pushing of the practical limits of student to staff ratios to the point of no return is being played out elsewhere too. Another unintended consequence of severe restructuring in departments is the potential loss of depth and breadth of teaching expertise. The negative impact on staff well-being and capacity to continue to teach courses, and the detrimental effect that this would have on students, is plain to see. This is a no-win situation.

The British Sociological Association stands in solidarity with its members and other sociologists facing cuts and redundancies. Sociology provides a critical voice essential for the functioning of a democratic and inclusive society and we oppose all cuts to the provision of sociology teaching and research. Cuts to provision are harmful to students, staff and local communities, and reduce capacity for the scientific analysis of social processes and policy interventions.

As the national subject association for Sociology in Britain, we call upon our sister associations in the humanities, arts and social sciences and our umbrella bodies to join us in urging the new government to take urgent action to create long-term funding for UK research and teaching capacity in our sector. A new method to sustainably fund Higher Education is an essential priority for the new British Government and existing devolved governments.