Dept of Classics & Ancient History

University of Durham

38 North Bailey

Durham DH1 3EU

Open Letter to James Wharton, Chair, Office for Students; Professor Jean-Noël Ezingeard, Vice-Chancellor, University of Roehampton London; Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Higher and Further Education


Care about students’ futures? Don’t cut Classics at Roehampton.

The Advocating Classics Education (ACE) project has spent the last five years championing the expansion of access to the ancient world for young people in the UK. We have worked with sixteen university partners around the UK and Ireland. Roehampton was one of our first partner universities and has an international reputation for its success in widening access to Classics for students from underrepresented backgrounds. In 2018, ACE and Roehampton ran a major event highlighting the cross-curricular skills conferred by studying Classics. Classics at Roehampton has a long record of championing diversity and inclusion in the study of the Ancient World and in 2017, brought together researchers from several fields to share best practice. The department has led the way in developing inclusive pedagogies, particularly around equality of access for neurodivergent students, and has partnered with institutions such as English Heritage, Keats House and Pupil Referral Units in this research.

We want to voice our deep concern at the proposed cuts at Roehampton, in particular the plan to axe a thriving Classics department shortly after it has celebrated two centuries of outstanding contributions to UK academia, and after it achieved a 100% teaching satisfaction rating in the most recent NSS survey.

The University claims that it is pivoting towards courses which offer ‘practical skills’ and strong employability opportunities for students. Any university with that goal should be investing in Classics, not dismantling it. Classics offers students the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills simultaneously – critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, functional literacy, information literacy, research skills and problem-solving, inter alia – and Roehampton has been at the forefront of national strategic efforts to integrate employability into the Classics curriculum.[1] Classics graduates from Roehampton go on to have experience success in a wide range of careers, from Law to Education to Professional Services. A survey of graduates – conducted by academics at Roehampton whose jobs you are now threatening – found ‘a staggering range of career options: at the time surveyed… there were forty-three different current careers out of a hundred respondents’.[2]

Roehampton Classics has also led the way by being the first Classics department in the UK to offer a work experience module as part of their BA programmes which ‘contributes to the candidate’s overall employability in developing their competencies and supplying proof of these to future employers’.[3]

But a Classics degree cultivates more than workforce-ready skills and employability. Studying the ancient world also enhances cultural literacy, refines consciousness of cultural difference and relativism, fosters awareness of a three-millennia long past, along with models and ideals of democracy, and develops identities founded in citizenship on the national and global level.

The proposed cuts at Roehampton are a threat to the Arts and Humanities across the UK, and as such threaten to undermine one of our greatest assets as a country. Britain’s world-leading universities bring £100 billion to the economy,[4] and they do so because of the wide range of courses they offer students, to inspire them and to develop their skills for future employment. To cut a thriving course at Roehampton with so much to offer its students would be short-sighted, retrograde and deeply regrettable.

Professor Edith Hall (Durham), Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson (KCL) and Dr Peter Swallow (KCL)

Want to support the campaign to stop the closure? Sign the public petition here.

[1] Holmes-Henderson, A. and Tempest, K. (2018) ‘Classics and Twenty-First-Century Skills’ in Holmes-Henderson, A., Hunt, S., and M. Musie (eds.) Forward with Classics: classical languages in schools and communities, Bloomsbury, London. pp. 231-242.
[3] Holmes-Henderson and Tempest (2018).