Book Reviews

One of the perks of being a PhD student, or indeed academic, is having access to free books through the medium of ‘the book review’. My second review has just been published in Post-Medieval Archaeology. In it I look at the Bridgewater 250: The Archaeology of the World’s First Industrial Canal (2012), edited by Mike Nevell and Terry Wyke and a second volume Recapturing The Past of Salford Quays: The industrial archaeology of the Manchester and Salford Docks (2017), edited by Mike Nevell and David George. You can find the full review here.

I also wrote a book review on the Crossrail publication of archaeological works at The Thames Iron Works site in East London, which was published in the Industrial Archaeology Review. The full review of The Thames Iron Works 1837–1912: A Major Shipbuilder on the Thames (2015) by Daniel Harrison is here.

 

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Meeting with Head of Division and Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. 16th August 2017

The M2020 team response to our specific questions on the 9th August was met with another redirection to discuss our concerns with Professor David Langslow, the Head of the Division of Archaeology, Religions and Theology, and classics and Ancient History. Myself and Katie Mills (a PhD student) met with David, and Professor Alessandro Schiesaro the Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures on 16th August to discuss our concerns. The meeting lasted an hour, and was recorded, but I provide a summary of the responses from by David and Alessandro below.

Q: How do you propose to ensure that we ‘will not experience any disruption’ to our studies in the event that we lose one, two or all three members of our supervisory panel?

A: They accept that there will be some disruption to most students, but that they will work to minimise that disruption. They could not give us any information about how they would minimise disruption beyond finding new supervisors.

 

Q: How will you ensure that the remaining staff have adequate expertise to provide PhD level advice and supervision in all our research areas?

A: They can’t. Whilst neither David nor Alessandro were willing to offer options for supervision themselves, they agreed that a number of possible scenarios proposed by me would be most likely, namely that alternative supervisors will be sought within the department, within the University of Manchester in other departments, or externally from other Universities.

The PhD students have repeatedly requested clarification from the University regarding the possibility of formally retaining our supervisors as externals in the event that they are made redundant, but HR have not responded to our, or David’s request for clarification. Our expectation is that it will not be possible to retain supervisors in this formal capacity as legally one cannot continue to pay for services from someone that you have made redundant.

It was clear that whilst the University does not have to accept a request for Voluntary Severance (VS), there is no plan or strategy for the future of the Archaeology department against which to make decisions about who stays and who goes. The number of PhD students is one of a number of criteria to be taken into account when making redundancy decisions, but as most staff have at least one PhD student, this will neither prevent disruption to current students, nor ensure adequate expertise to supervise PhD students.

 

Q: What will happen if more than 4 members of staff voluntarily leave the department? Specifically, will the University recruit to replace those staff and maintain a minimum of 4 staff?

A: They were unable to provide any reassurance that the University would recruit new staff to maintain 4 members of staff in the department, or that replacement staff would be of an equal level of seniority or similar area of expertise.

 

Q: What plans are in place to ensure that the archaeology department continues to produce increasing quantities of world‑leading research. To this end, what provisions will be put in place to ensure that the research produced by staff within the archaeology department does not deteriorate to the level of other departments in the UK with 4-5 members of staff.

A: David confirmed that the work allocation model and percentage of time allocated to research would remain the same, as would all normal research support for staff at the university. There was no recognition that staff in a department of 4 might struggle to produce world leading research compared to colleagues in a larger department, and no suggestion that there would be additional support from the University for staff to improve the quality of the research.

 

Q: Why does the university need to ‘urgently improve the quality of our intake’ and what do you foresee the results to be of maintaining the current admission process?

A: The increase in entry tariff is a university wide step, made with a view to reducing the number of undergraduate students at the university. There was some acknowledgement that this step would adversely and disproportionately affect archaeology. There is great concern within the School about the decreasing numbers of UG students at Manchester, despite this being a UK wide trend in Archaeology, but very little being done beyond the department to address the problem. 

They were unable to make any useful comment beyond the fact that entry tariffs and non-traditional A-level routes are something to be discussed when they know what the ‘new’ smaller department will look like.

They were somewhat taken aback by the two pages of testimonials I presented them with, from alumni who had come to the department with A-level grades below BBB and either achieved 2:1 or 1sts. Furthermore, many of these had gone on to excel within the profession, either going directly into employment within archaeology, further study and many to PhD research in archaeology.

 

Q: What is the vision is for the department in terms of the courses it is expected to deliver, and the breadth of subjects expected to be covered?

A: They were unable to provide any information about this, and unwilling to make comment until they know who would be staying and who would be going. Discussions about what the department might teach from 2018 would take place after the deadline for VS and CR.

With regards to the impact on GTA teaching opportunities, they are working on the assumption that there will be less courses being taught, but also less PhD students/GTAs to offer teaching opportunities to, and that all PhD students would continue to have the opportunity to teach. No PhD student should be overloaded with teaching as we are not under any obligation to accept teaching.

 

Q: How will adequate supervisory time be ensured for PhD students when the staff within the archaeology department are overloaded with undergraduate teaching and supervision.

A: The only answer given was that the work allocation model would remain the same and therefore the same amount of time should be available for supervisions.

There was no real acknowledgement that although student numbers have declined this intake, there are still full complements of students in their 2nd year, who will need supervising through their 3rd year starting Autumn 2018. There will also be around 10 PhD students who will need supervising, which is a heavy load for just 4 members of staff, when each PhD student has a first and second supervisor and independent reviewer.  

 

Q: We request that any consideration of merging the department of archaeology with Classics and Ancient History, or any other department, be clarified and stated out‑right.

A: Nothing is being discussed at the moment until they know which staff are staying. The whole of the structure of SALC is being looked at as well, and the indication was that this is an option, certainly from the point of view of sharing administrative support, etc.

 

So, overall, very little was offered to reassure the PhD students. This was not entirely surprising given that neither David nor Alessandro were architects of the M2020 plan, but have merely been told to carry out the redundancies associated with it.

What did become absolutely clear though, was that despite the M2020 strategy being in place, there was no strategy in place to determine what the smaller 4 person Archaeology Department would look like, what it would teach and research, and how it would interact with the wider School and University. This was particularly alarming given that there is the potential to be left with 4 members of staff with no overlapping areas of research, which would make creating a cohesive and attractive UG degree extremely difficult. It would also, of course, make supervision of PhD students difficult and ultimately end with the collapse of UG and PhD student numbers, and the closure of the department. With a cynical eye, this seems like a highly attractive approach for the University to take, if they wanted to close the department of archaeology down quietly. By taking this approach, it could be said to have failed by itself, when evidently the lack of support for the subject from the University would be to blame.

Furthermore, given the University’s poor view of the Archaeology Department’s 2014 REF results, it was frustrating, but not surprising, to learn that no assistance, professional support or CPD type support is in place to enable staff to improve the quality of work submitted for future REF assessments. Given one of the main aims of the M2020 project is to improve the quality of research at the University this seems astonishing.

The PhD students are extremely frustrated that this seems to be the end of any discussion with the University. The M2020 team are unwilling to engage further and provide any further information about their plans or vision for the department, and David and Alessandro have nothing further to offer. It seems we must wait until decisions have been taken about which members of staff are to be made redundant.

Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

PhD students respond to the M2020 project management team 9th August 2017

In response to the M2020 project management team’s email (here) of 3rd August, suggesting that they had provided a ‘detailed response’ to our concerns and questions, the PhD students wrote the following, which was supported by over 60 alumni of the department:

 

Dear M2020 Project Management team, and senior leadership at the University of Manchester,

Further to your email response of 3rd August, we, the PhD students in the Department of Archaeology, do not accept your assertion that you have provided a ‘detailed response’ to our concerns. In fact you have provided absolutely no information at all to reassure us of how supervisory arrangements will be managed to ensure no disruption to our study, or how you propose to improve the quality of research. Reasserting that there will be no disruption and that the process will improve the student experience without any information as to how is not reassuring, and in fact suggests that there is in fact no plan at all. Therefore, I repeat our request for further information:

Specifically, we request further clarification regarding the following comments you made in your previous correspondence:

  1. ‘We are fully committed to ensuring that you will not experience any disruption’.

This statement is beyond our comprehension. Every single one of the permanent staff within the Archaeology department is supervising PhD students. To make any one of them redundant, and therefore unable to provide supervision, will result in some disruption to at least some of the PhD students. As we each have two supervisors and an independent reviewer, it is likely that every single student will experience some level of supervisory disruption with the loss of half the departmental staff. It is entirely possible that a number of students will lose every single member of their supervisory team. The loss of 50% of the staff will result in a dramatic decrease in the breadth of expertise within the department, and given the wide range of research being carried out by the PhD students, it is likely that the remaining 4 members of staff will not have sufficient expertise in our area of study to provide adequate supervision.

We request clarification as to how exactly you propose to ensure that we ‘will not experience any disruption’ to our studies in the event that we lose one, two or all three members of our supervisory panel? How exactly do you propose to ensure that the remaining staff have adequate expertise to provide PhD level advice and supervision in all our research areas?

We further request that you clarify what the situation will be should more than 4 members of staff voluntarily leave the department? As was the case during the internal review in 2015, when three members of staff sought positions elsewhere, many of the staff are, yet again, feeling unvalued and worried about their futures. Can you confirm whether, in the event that more than 4 members of staff find employment elsewhere, that the university will recruit appropriately experienced, senior level staff to maintain a minimum of 4 members of staff within the archaeology department?

We would like to make it clear that we are in correspondence with Professor David Langslow regarding this issue, but he has been unable to provide any level of reassurance regarding proposed supervisory arrangements, largely due to the lack of information being passed to him from the M2020 Project team and senior management. David has done his best to provide us with information, and we acknowledge his support for our concerns, but we request that this issue be addressed directly by the M2020 team and senior management.

2. ‘Our vision is for The University of Manchester to be one of the leading universities in the world by 2020’. ‘Improve the quality of our research, by increasing the quality of research outputs and research income, through enabling investment in our research priorities.’

We appreciate that the SLT has high aims for the international reputation of the University of Manchester, but we do not understand how reducing the Department of Archaeology to just 4 members of staff helps with this vision. As mentioned above, reducing the number of staff to just 4 dramatically reduces the breadth of expertise within the department, therefore limiting the level of collaboration within the department and directly reducing the range of subjects that can be taught and supervised. Although the department at Manchester may be viewed as having performed poorly in the 2014 REF, we out‑performed every other department of a similar size (10 in 2014), with significantly more of our submissions scoring at 4* and 3*, compared to other departments with 10 or less staff that had the majority of their submissions graded as 2*. Whilst those departments currently ranked in the top 5 in the country all significantly ‘out‑performed’ the department of archaeology at Manchester, they also had at between two and six times the number of staff. We would argue that league tables and the REF do not tell the full story of departmental success, however this brief assessment also suggests that it is the larger departments that consistently produce ‘world-leading’ research. Furthermore, the departments that had 5 or less members of staff had the majority of their submissions graded at 1* or 2*. We do not understand how reducing the number of staff within the department will assist with your vision of producing higher quality research than at present.

We request that you clarify what your plans are to ensure that the archaeology department continues to produce increasing quantities of world‑leading research. Can you also please clarify, exactly, what provisions will be put in place to ensure that the research produced by staff within the archaeology department does not deteriorate to the level of other departments in the UK with 4-5 members of staff, as the quality of the research environment has a direct impact on the experience of PhD students.

  1. ‘we need urgently to improve the quality of our intake’

We note that many of the University ranking systems use student intake scores as part of their assessment, and we therefore assume that SLT believe that increasing the required admission scores will assist the quest to rise up the rankings. As a group of students who have excelled academically within the field of archaeology, often entirely within the department at the University of Manchester, we feel it is important to highlight that, like our fellow students at undergraduate level, we did not all achieve straight As at A level. Archaeology departments across the UK (with the exception of Oxbridge) have a long tradition in enabling students that did not excel at school to flourish and become outstanding students, professionals and academics. The unique mix of scientific and humanities approaches that characterises archaeological research is a particular draw for students who struggled within the confines of the school exam systems. Whilst not documented scientifically for obvious reasons, anecdotal evidence and discussions with dyslexia support staff indicate that archaeology, as a discipline, attracts disproportionate numbers of students with dyslexia, many of whom are only diagnosed at university, often explaining average or poor A level grades. Limiting admission to students who excel at school restricts the diversity of the student body and therefore diminishes the quality of the student experience. High A‑level grades are not a guarantee for achieving 1st class honours, but exclusion of those with lower grades does exclude students who may go on to excel in the subject. We would like to highlight the results of the most recent graduating class which achieved the following grades: 1st– 10 students, 2.1- 35 students, 2.2- 11 students, 3rd– 1 student. Clearly the existing arrangements for admissions is producing high quality graduates, so we therefore request that you clarify why exactly we need to ‘urgently improve the quality of our intake’ and what you foresee the results to be of maintaining the current admission process?

  1. ‘provide highly talented individuals, to support large-scale infrastructure projects of national importance’

We note your understanding that the archaeological profession is in desperate need of more trained archaeologists, but do not understand how your proposed halving of the archaeology department staff in any way supports the profession’s needs. We draw your attention to the following event, organised by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, titled ‘A Crisis of Upcoming Work’ in which the dire lack of qualified archaeological staff will be discussed. The department at Manchester excels in the field of British archaeology across a range of periods, and along with its teaching of field techniques, heritage management and support for undergraduate fieldwork experience, makes Manchester graduates highly desirable employees. This combination is crucial for students wishing to work in the UK, and it is the excellent teaching of these subjects that place Manchester 7th in the UK for graduate prospects. It is inconceivable that 4 members of staff could effectively cover the range of subjects and skills that go into providing this vocationally relevant degree course, in addition to the academic skills that enable so many students to progress to MA and PhD study.

Can you please clarify what your vision is for the department in terms of the courses it is expected to deliver, and the breadth of subjects expected to be covered? A reduction in teaching volume has direct consequences for GTA opportunities for PhD students, and has the potential to leave PhD students with limited teaching experience and therefore unprepared and under qualified for academic posts. Equally an expectation of increased teaching commitments by PhD students to fill the gaps left by departed staff runs the risk of overburdening PhD students.

Further to this point, there have been suggestions that with just four members of staff the archaeology department would no longer stand alone, but be merged within the department of Classics and Ancient History, and that single honours degree courses will no long run. Such a move would be hugely detrimental to students wishing to work in the UK, with an associated negative effect on the employability of students in the field of professional archaeology. Of the 6 universities placed higher than Manchester for graduate prospects, only one (Birmingham) has a joint department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, in which 11 archaeologists are currently employed. Many students at Manchester are concerned that the significant reduction in staff numbers will make a stand alone department of archaeology no longer viable. We request that any consideration of merging the department of archaeology with Classics and Ancient History, or any other department, be clarified and stated out‑right.

  1. ‘Reduce student numbers leading to an improvement in teaching, learning and student outcomes’

It is widely recognised that smaller student:staff ratios provide a higher quality student experience, and we welcome the potential for this initiative. Manchester compares favourably at present to other high ranking UK universities offering archaeology with a student:staff ratio of 14.3:1 although it has a somewhat higher ratio than the highest ranking universities in the UK (which average around 11:1) and internationally (which average around 7:1). A reduction of staff to just 4 in September 2018 would require a simultaneous dramatic cut in student numbers to ensure adequate supervision for undergraduate students in their second and third years, with a concurrent significant negative impact on the quantity and quality of PhD supervision able to be offered by staff. We do not understand how the proposed loss of staff will provide an improvement in the experience of either undergraduate or post-graduate students.

We therefore seek a full explanation of how adequate supervisory time will be ensured for PhD students when the staff within the archaeology department are overloaded with undergraduate teaching and supervision.

Archaeology PhD Students:

Daniel Calderbank

Hanna Steyne Chamberlin

Ellon May Souter

Sarah Jayne Botfield

Katie Mills

Linnea Kuglitsch

Sarah Douglas

Holly Jane Atkinson

Lois Stone

Marte Tollefsen

Alison Burns

Julie Birchenall

Giulia Muti

Alathea Byrne

Matt Hitchcock

 

We the undersigned share the concerns of the PhD students and support their request for further information:

  1. Dara Laughlin, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, starting Archaeology MA September 2017
  2. Katie Sanderson, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, starting Archaeology MA September 2017
  3. Dr Angela McClanahan, UoM Archaeology 2000-2006
  4. Dorian Gordon, current UoM Archaeology undergraduate student
  5. Jane Barker, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, awarded David Coombs scholarship for MA starting September 2017
  6. Greg McSorley, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2012
  7. Dominic Cisalowicz, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2016
  8. Andrew Lewis, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2009
  9. Ellie Hunt. UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2007
  10. Victoria Green, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2010-13, MA Archaeology 2016-17
  11. Catherine Bearshaw, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2011-2014, MA Archaeology 2015-2017.
  12. Alex Conlon, UoM BA(hons) Ancient History & Archaeology 2012-2015
  13. Jim Cook UoM BA(hons) Archaeology 2009, MA Archaeology2010
  14. Lauren Doughton, UoM MA Archaeology 2006, PhD 2014
  15. Stephen Gordon, UoM Art History and Archaeology (BA 2007) and English Literature and Archaeology (PhD 2013)
  16. Mark Reddington 2007 BA Archaeology UoM
  17. Lara Bishop PhD Archaeology UoM, graduated 2017
  18. Somayyeh Mottaghi-Taromsari, UoM Archaeology (BA) 2008-2012
  19. Dr Gordon Marino, UoM Archaeology 2007 (BA), 2008 (MA) 2012 (PhD)
  20. Debi Amirat 2006 BA Archaeology and MA in Archaeology 2007 at UoM
  21. John Piprani Graduated 2017 Archaeology PhD, graduated Archaeology Masters 2011 both at UoM
  22. Andy Bull, MA Archaeology 2016, BA Archaeology 2015
  23. Emma Stansfield UoM BA Archaeology- 2009-2012
  24. Dr Ben Gearey, Dept Archaeology, UCC, Cork, Ireland
  25. Anne Templeton, Field Archaeologist. University of Manchester 2009 – 2012
  26. Dr Nick Overton, PhD at the University of Manchester 2010-2014
  27. Dr Stephanie N. Duensing, Archaeology MA (2010) & PhD (2015)
  28. Nick Georgiou BA Archaeology 2009, current MA Archaeology student
  29. Insar haq, BA (Hons) Archaeology 2011-14, MA Archaeology 2014-16. UoM.
  30. Mike Nevell. Head of Archaeology University of Salford, University of Manchester graduate Ancient History & Archaeology BA Hons 1984, Archaeology MPhil 1986, Archaeology DPhil 1993
  31. Hannah MacGuire BA Hons Archaeology and Anthropology 2010-2014, MA Archaeology 2014-2016
  32. David Jennings, BA Hons, 2011-4, MA 2014-15. Currently undertaking a PhD at University of York.
  33. Savanah Mohamed Fahmy-Fryer, BA Archaeology & Anthropology, 2014-2017. Due to start Archaeology MA, September 2017
  34. Andreas Michaelas, Graduate 2012
  35. Kate Smith, BA Archaeology, graduated 2015
  36. Jim Haake, BA Archaeology and Ancient History, 2009 – 2012
  37. Justin Ayres BA Archaeology Sheffield graduate 2017
  38. Neil Lockett. BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology, 1997
  39. Simon Askew BA(Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1995
  40. Cansu Han, BA Archaeology and Anthropology 2013-2016, starting MA Archaeology in September 2017
  41. Ellen McInnes, PhD Archaeology 2015
  42. Jayne Graham, graduated 2014 BA Archaeology
  43. Alicia Bell, graduated 2012 (BA Hons archaeology)
  44. Daisy Knox, PhD Archaeology 2012
  45. Irene García MA 2007 PhD2012
  46. Hannah Hogan BA Hons Archaeology 2012
  47. Jamie Farrington BA Ancient History and Archaeology, and soon to be MA Archaeology
  48. Jamie Skuse, graduated 2013 with a BA (Hons) degree in Archaeology.
  49. Emma Bratby, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Ancient History and Archaeology
  50. Melody Gosling MA Archaeology graduating 2018
  51. Anthony Parker graduated 2012 BA hons Archaeology
  52. Chris Mowat, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Archaeology and Ancient History
  53. Fred Craig, BA (Hons) Archaeology and Anthropology, Graduated 2017
  54. Fleur Stevens, BA Archaeology, graduate 2016
  55. Stephanie-Adele McCulloch, BA (Hons) Archaeology 2016 graduate.
  56. Alixann ferguson, BA archaeology, graduate 2017
  57. Phillip Sweeting, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Ancient History and Archaeology.
  58. Thomas Stebbings Archaeology BA (hons) 2012 graduate
  59. James Smith BA (Hons) Archaeology and ancient history. Graduated 2013
  60. Carla Clynes MA Archaeology 2016. Hoping to start PhD at Manchester in 2018
  61. Naomi Brudney BA (hons) Archaeology and Anthropology 2017 graduate
  62. Sandra Lynes BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1993-1996. MA 1999-2000.
  63. Andrew Shaw BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1993-1996.

 

 

 

Day of Archaeology 2016

In 2011 the first Day of Archaeology launched, with a website to give the world a sample of what we archaeologist actually get up to. Although the tellybox may distil our work into a few exciting days of excavation, the reality is a little different. For starters, a huge number of archaeologists do not spend their time excavating, or even recording archaeological sites. Whilst it is always nice to enthuse people about archaeology through new discoveries, it is the view behind the scenes, and out of the field which I think is really wonderful about the Day of Archaeology. The fact that entries come from all over the world adds to the colourful view of what we get up to.

This year I wanted to join in this wonderful celebration of archaeology. The Day of Archaeology was a Friday, a day I am usually on childcare, so I wrote about the day before. It may not be the most exciting entry, and is unlikely to persuade anyone to chose archaeology as a profession, but it will certainly provide a pretty standard view of what archaeology can end up being about! You can read my blog entry for the 2016 Day of Archaeology here. Enjoy!

Stinking Foreshore to Tree Lined Avenue

Welcome!

I’ve created this blog as a space in which to reflect on my experiences as a PhD researcher and to muse on the places I go, people I meet and the variety of things I learn.

My research investigates the impact and effect of the Thames Embankment construction on working-class riverside residents in Chelsea. The Embankments were the largest publicly funded infrastructure projects of the 19th century, and their primary effect was to turn the stinking, sewage covered Thames foreshore into a wide, tree-lined avenue. This, and the prevention of further cholera outbreaks, is the predominant narrative in relation to the Embankments. The loss of waterfront businesses, opportunities for employment, the demolition of working-class housing and the eviction of the riverside residents is an untold story, but one I hope to illuminate in the coming years.

My background as a maritime archaeologist has provided me with experience combing traditional archaeological and historical sources with a water-orientated perception of landscapes and activity around water. The foreshore has traditionally been an under-researched area, falling outside of the comfort zones of both maritime and terrestrial archaeologists. Whilst a lot of research has taken place over the last 15 years on coastal foreshores, later post-medieval urban ports and waterfronts have been somewhat neglected. My aim is to highlight the value of a combined maritime archaeological and social history approach to our understanding of urban watery places and particularly the Thames riverside.

I’ll keep you posted and let you know how I get on …