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Friday, October 09, 2009
  Innovative High-ranking Biblical Studies department to close?
Jim West posted a message to the Biblical Studies List which claimed that the University of Sheffield was planning to close its innovative and respected Biblical Studies Department (at least for undergraduate programmes). [He has also posted on his blog.] A Google search led me to a page from the Sheffield students association which suggests that total closure is threatened.

Since this department is both well-respected and ranks highly on most formal and informal assessments, and since I enjoyed a most stimulating sabbatical there ;) I have written the email below to the Vice-Chancellor:
Prof. Keith Burnett
Vice-Chancellor
The University of Sheffield

Dear Sir,

I have been shocked to read reports that the University is considering closing the Biblical Studies department. As you know this department regularly scores highly in various comparative assessments, and has a excellent reputation worldwide as one of the major research and teaching institutions in the discipline. A generation ago there was suspicion of the  unusual step of creating  a biblical studies department outside theology, however developments in society and especially in the discipline since then have vindicated this decision.

As well as knowing of the department through its staff's publications I spent a highly stimulating sabbatical in Sheffield a few years ago, and have the highest respect for the work I saw. Teaching an undergraduate course as well as participating in the departmental seminars, which were the liveliest and most intellectually stimulating I have attended.

It would be a loss to the discipline globally if this department were closed. Many staff in institutions such as the one in which I teach received their PhDs from Sheffield (in our case most of us studied in NZ, but the head of our Mandarin-speaking programme is a Sheffield graduate).

I find the decision particularly shocking as there seems to have been little consultation either within the University or beyond.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Bulkeley
If you are a biblical scholar, or amateur of the field, you might consider a similar letter, the address is vc@sheffield.ac.uk



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