Sheffield Hallam University criticised for scrapping English literature degree

Sheffield Hallam University
Credit: PA

Sheffield Hallam University has been criticised over a decision to scrap its English literature degree amid pressure to get graduates straight into well-paid jobs.

The announcement follows the government's decision to end funding for degrees where less than 40% of students go on to get "highly skilled" positions.

In a tweet that was widely shared, Dr Mary Peace, senior lecturer in English Literature at Sheffield Hallam, said the university was "responding to the government, who will no longer fund degrees where 60% of students don't end up in 'highly skilled' jobs."

In a follow-up tweet she added: "When was it ever more important in our history for young people to be able to manipulate language and to understand how they are manipulated by language and stories?"

Two other universities, Roehampton and Wolverhampton, have also announced plans to get rid of their arts and humanities programmes.

Among those to criticise the move was Hull graduate James Graham, the playwright behind the BBC television drama Sherwood. He said he would not have become a writer if an English degree had not been available.

He said: "I wouldn’t have written Sherwood. Other writers wouldn’t have written theirs."

Humanities subjects have become less popular over the past 10 years with acceptances declining from 10,020 in 2011 to 6,980 in 2020.

Places in history and philosophical subjects also fell from 15,060 to 12,870.

Sheffield Hallam will no longer accept applications to its English language degree but continues to offer a combined English language, literature and creative writing course.

A university spokesperson said: "We keep our portfolio of courses under constant review to ensure that they align to the latest demands from students and employers.

"These changes are predominantly driven by providing the best possible learning offer in the context of the latest application trends. They do not involve job losses.

"More broadly, we believe that study in the arts and humanities is hugely valuable for our wider society.

"Graduates in these areas go on to enjoy successful careers and have a real positive impact on our economy, health, wellbeing and education.

"These subjects are a vital part of our offer as a university and we will continue to provide a wide range of arts and humanities courses led by some outstanding teams of academics."