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Worldwide Campaign

Update – Thursday 11 June 2013


The Centre for Deaf Studies was discussed as a report at the Council meeting on Friday 5th July, 2103. There was a fairly wide ranging discussion with several issues raised.  The University of Bristol stated they have gradually taken steps to reduce the shape and specification of CDS in line with university structures. With the loss of the BSc, MSc, and staff, the Dean’s recommendation is that the Centre now be dissolved. There was no opportunity to vote, but the Council meeting failed to comment or object to the recommendation.  The Faculty has decided that relocating the Centre to another School within the university is not now an option. The plan for the relocation of CDS outside of SACHS has therefore been declined. The report to dissolve the Centre was therefore accepted by the Council.

The Council were asked about the outward facing functions of the school such as mobile phone applications, and it was claimed, inappropriately, that arrangements had been made for these to be supported by other providers. The next step is simply a practical management of the dissolution of CDS and is in the hands of management and human resources.

Even so, proposals to continue to support the research students who have been left stranded by all of this have been made through the Deaf Studies Trust.  This would provide a Deaf Studies environment, which would validate their research effort.  We are urging the university to honour its commitment to these students and to engage with the Deaf Studies Trust.


 Sunday 30 June 2013: Response to University of Bristol misinformation

 CDS is set to close on 31st July 2013.  Please see this post for more information.

Further background to the details of the closure can be found in this post.

An outline history of 35 years of CDS can be found in this link.



(Note: campaign update since the UoB Council decision see here. Note all updates are on our blog).

British Sign Language:

International Sign:


A Bristol University Centre that has been a beacon and an inspiration to Deaf people all over the world is facing savage staffing cuts which, experts say, would make it ineffective – and with it we may lose one of Britain’s proudest claims to worldwide academic leadership.

For more than thirty years, the Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) has blazed a trail for others to follow in the fields of Sign Language Studies, Deaf Studies and interpreter training. It has a list of firsts for which most universities, let alone small departments, would give their eye teeth:

  • First funded research on sign language in the UK
  • First use of the term Deaf Studies, now widely used all over the world
  • First textbook on British Sign Language – still in use
  • First full-time training programme for sign language interpreters
  • First BSc & MSc in Deaf Studies
  • First Professorship in Deaf Studies
  • First Deaf person to head an Academic Centre in Europe
  • First full-time University training programme for Deaf people taught in sign language

In all, the Centre has chalked up nearly thirty firsts in thirty years – a return on (very modest) investment almost unequalled in the
increasingly bang-for-your-buck world of higher education.

But now, the CDS is threatened with cutbacks affecting 75% of staff. According to everyone who works there, this will make it almost impossible to continue teaching beyond the next couple of years. And students who have already embarked on courses such as the world-famous BSc in Deaf Studies may receive an increasingly inadequate tuition service, because staff will be so overstretched.

“This is a breach of trust – in fact a breach of contract – with those of us who came here in good faith because of the Centre’s reputation”, said one student. “I came here to learn from the best Deaf and hearing staff and go on to become a sign language interpreter. Now they’re planning to get rid of most of them.”

On Monday 10 May, the University Senate took the first step towards implementing the cuts. The decision now passes to a meeting of the University Council on Friday 14 May. The University has to make cuts of £15m per annum to its budget. The actual savings by removing the Deaf Studies undergraduate programme (staff costs minus the student fee income) is not much more than £100k per annum – hardly enough to consider putting this programme at risk and flying in the face of the University’s own Diversity and Public Engagement aims.

It is widely felt that the CDS has been targeted because it is seen in some quarters as a vulnerable minority interest. “Other departments who don’t want to bear the brunt themselves may just sit on their hands, hoping they might escape the worst if the CDS takes the biggest hit”, said one supporter.

If so, this would be seen in many quarters as not only cowardly, but against the law. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, all public bodies have a Disability Equality Duty to carry out a disability equality impact assessment of the community of any measures they take. There is strong evidence that Bristol University has hardly begun this process and is potentially acting contrary to the Code of Practice.

In fact, where so many Deaf people are concerned, far from rushing decisions through Senate at short notice, there is a requirement to allow extra consultation time because of the difficulties of communication. Ironically, the CDS has done more than almost anywhere over the years to improve communication and access for Deaf people.

But if the authorities acted at short notice, they must have been taken aback at the speed with which the campaign to Save Deaf Studies took off, once word leaked out. Within four days a petition started by a third-year undergraduate has gathered nearly two-and-a-half-thousand signatures from Deaf people and universities all over the world.

The CDS has always been a pioneer on a global scale. In 1996 it ran the first UK deaf-led project based in Africa – in Northern Uganda – funded by Oxfam and Action on Disability and Development. It has also pioneered Europe-wide initiatives. In April this year it launched a multi-million euro project in conjunction with police and fire services to give deaf people direct access to 999 services through videophones.  Now all the effort that the team at CDS have put in over the decades is being repaid with an international outcry against the University’s cuts plan.

Academics from as far afield as Australia, Finland, Germany, Canada and the United States have leapt to the defence of the beleaguered CDS, with comments on the petition website and letters directed to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas.

Two Assistant Professors from Utah Valley University in the USA wrote:

“.targeting programs such as Centre for Deaf Studies for budgetary cuts. stems from inability of majority culture to recognize and understand the significant contributions studies of minority cultures have towards the academic discipline of Humanities. those programs should be celebrated and promoted, rather than cut. Please reconsider before you implement such a disastrous plan – disastrous to greater understanding of humanity, disastrous to promotion of equity of humans worldwide – and disastrous harm to Deaf people everywhere.”

More comments from all over Britain and around the world can be found here on our website and the petition, at Save BSc Deaf Studies Campaign Petition.

Thirty years ago a beacon for the promotion of Deaf Studies was lit in Bristol. Now the campaign to save it is spreading like wildfire round the world.

For further information contact:

Please help our cause by also sending letters of support to Council Members who will tomorrow decide the fate of our degree course and the ensured future of our department;

Lord Mayor Christopher Davies –,

Denis Burn –,

Ron Kerr -,

Mr J Wadsworth:,

Mr IEG Ray:
Mr J Bramhall:
Mr C Curling:
Mr C Green:
Mrs D Moore:
Mr GK Morton:
Professor L Hall:
Professor AE Waterman-Pearson:
Professor PJ Booth:
Dr SE Heslop:
Dr DM Newbold:
Mr RT Massie:
Ms P Lawrence-Archer:
Mr OB Peachey:
Miss RE Jackson:
Emma Di’Lorio:

  1. Alicia Sinigaglia permalink

    Es importante que las personas sordas continúen investigando, trabajando y difundiendo en la universidad… siempre caen los más débiles… no seamos parte de estas injusticias.
    Por favor, no recortar el presupuesto hacia las personas sordas de la universidad! es uno de los poco lugares que está avanzado en esto.

  2. I personaly am not deaf but will surport all + any impaired person simply because I am a flesh + blood human withc a heart full of compassion

  3. John D. Bonvillian permalink

    I think that it would be a tragic mistake to severely cut the bubget of Bristol’s Centre for Deaf Studies. This centre has played a very important role worldwide in establishing Deaf Studies as a recognized educational program and in conducting and disseminating information about sign language research. The proposed budget cut needs to be carefully reconsidered.

  4. This is a premiere program. Keep it alive.

  5. G. Thomas Couser permalink

    As founding director of Hofstra University’s disability studies program, I oppose these budget cuts.

  6. Dr Margaret du Feu permalink

    As a Psychiatrist working with Deaf People for over 20 years, I know the value of this department, which has always been a support and an inspiration to me and my Deaf and hearing colleagues. It is a rare and precious resource.

  7. Keir Lewis permalink

    Have signed the petition and got friends and family to do so. I applied this year and was accepted for deferred entry – which means I have a place for a course that won’t exist. . .

    Do we know when we are expecting a decision?


  8. administrator permalink

    @Keir – tomorrow. You and your family might want to take time to write a letter to the University, spelling your concerns and what you feel about it.

  9. I continue to write from afar to all the relevant people. The pattern at Bristol is common to many universities up against the wall. But that does not excuse taking unpopular shortcuts. Legal and procedural issues could still work in CDS’s favour.

    Here is a thought. I would imagine UWE down the road would love to take over the CDS wholesale, given the magnificent publicity and accolades it has received in the last week, unprecedented in its history. There are also 3,500 petitioners potentially waiting to put their hands in their pockets to support it (if this was US university, they would be raising an endowment already).


  10. Sheila Conlon Mentkowski permalink

    I have signed the petition in solidarity with my UK deaf friends and colleagues. Following along and hoping that our signatures and statements will not fall on ‘deaf’ ears.

  11. Nicole Wasmoeth permalink

    Keep Bristol’s Centre for Deaf Studies alive!

  12. D.J and A Vale permalink

    There isn’t enough centre’s now so to close this one isn’t fair.Keep it open.

  13. Gareth Foulkes permalink

    I’ve signed the petition. Does anyone know if Bristol University have carried out an Equality Impact Assessment on their proposal to close the BSC in Deaf Studies? Closing the course is obviously going to have an adverse effect on Deaf staff and Deaf students and could be a possible breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can we start fundraising for a judicial review on whether Bristol University is in breach of the law here?

  14. Keir Lewis permalink

    This is really frustrating!! I’ve been checking all day! Can anyone give a more accurate time-frame of when we’ll hear news other than “today”? I assume the administrator will post the decision as soon as it is known?


  15. ana permalink

    estoy con vosotros!

  16. Susie Catterall-Brooke permalink

    If everyone who has signed the petition gave a donation of £25 would this save the CDS…that would be politics in action!

  17. Esto hay que pelearlo!!!
    Vamos que se puede!!!

  18. Anon permalink

    Beware – the lack of new info on this website is diluting the campaign. Also, if no info is coming from the University, you really need to work from the inside as much as possible to find out what is going on – otherwise you could get a nasty surprise (as with the Save Middlesex Philosophy campaign)

  19. Troi permalink

    It is a big need for Deaf Studies to carry on teaching!!

    It has proven past and present students have made a great impact to our deaf and hearing communities/services in the UK and worldwide.


  20. Anita Duffy permalink

    Keep it Deafstudies…. NO WAY to close everything. Keep teaching BSL.

  21. dear deaf

    me hope reply me look .


  22. Councillor David Buxton permalink

    I am really shocked to hear this news. I totally oppose the severe cuts. I strongly believe Bristol SHOULD be very proud to be the world’s leading university on Deaf Studies! I am deaf and sign language user. This country needs more qualified BSL interpreters. Without Deaf Studies, we, deaf people, may face major communication barriers in the future??? Why don’t we lobby the Minister for Universities and Colleges (if this post still exists)? I am happy to be involved.

  23. Tony Nabarro, IT Programmer permalink

    I am profoundly deaf & I have always valued the use of the BSL interpreters during my employment. All my career life, I have experienced the difficulty to contribute my real skills & motivations towards the majority of the employers and the employees who have the lack of deaf awareness & BSL ability. Deaf Studies does create the ‘human rights’ benefits for deaf people including myself.

  24. Jeff McWhinney permalink

    Could not put my signature and support on the petition – tried it many times over the last fortnight – blocked everytime:(

    Wanted to support this with a quote from Albert Einstein:

    “… knowledge must continually be renewed by ceaseless effort, if it is not to be lost. It resembles a statue of marble which stands in the desert and is continually threatened with burial by the shifting sand. The hands of service must ever be at work, in order that the marble continue to lastingly shine in the sun. To these serving hands mine shall also belong. (Albert Einstein, On Education, 1950)”

    You are taking this facility away from us, the Deaf community, no question about this at all, simply because this is unique, not like your other departments.

    Jeff McWhinney

  25. Kam Y. Lo permalink

    Save Our Bristol Deaf Studied. A decade ago, I remembered that the Deaf Studies Trust project to create DPIC (Deaf People in the Community) for the first time since 1997. They were really hard work to research developing the mobile communication device for the deaf people needs communication by text messaging without communication barrier thats why. I was volunteer to be involved with our Deaf Studies Trust within 2 years and made completely project titled DPIC published book. I think our budget should keep of our deaf staffs and deaf studies but there are few deaf studies at our universities in UK. Need more funds.

  26. Debra Wood permalink

    It’s a mistake to not keep the Deaf Studies going.

  27. Juan Carlos Druetta permalink

    No close! No way to close DCS!

    Es muy importante para la comunidad sorda y oyente que están trabajando en esta universidad

    Todos juntos con una lucha se puede vencer

    Contá conmigo





    LONDRES 2010

  29. Olá senhores,

    Espero muito que o governo aprovares ficar no centro de surdos em Bristol.

    Agradeco muito pela Leoner Gaspar enviar-nos no informacao.

    Fica! FICA ! FICA!

  30. Ola todos,

    Fiquei admirado..Mas nunca desaparecerá University of Bristol porque isso é bastante importante para as nossas vidas!!! Espero que sim University of Bristol continua, continua, continua para sempre todos anos!

    Colaboração dos surdos na Europa

    Alexandre Manuel

  31. Sonny permalink

    I am not deaf myself (yet), but I stumbled into this story because of my noise-induced hearing loss that seems intent on getting worse. I am a politics undergrad in London, and I have to say that it amazes me that a course like Deaf studies woul be withdrawn. What about drama, media and all the other courses that people can do at nearly every uni in the country. I mean, I would not like my course to be cut, but i do think Deaf studies at Bristol has a greater social purpose.

    I assume its the only course in the UK of its kind….and I assume this is hitting deaf people very hard.

    I hope you win… have my support.


  32. Wendy Haslam permalink

    Save Deaf studies!

  33. I am not deaf. This is a basic social resource we cannot afford to lose.`Any nation rich or poor would need this facility. It takes years of training and love to achieve skills like these. Please do not cut such a hard-won lifeline.

  34. Bex Robinson permalink

    Do NOT cut!!!!! This is a valuable resource for those who use it and those who run it…..

  35. Gwen Alexander permalink

    I have worked with deaf and dual sensory impaired people for many years. I also have a very young nephew that is completely deaf. I cannot believe that anyone would dream of closing this extremely valuable resource in our country; nothing to be proud of!!!!!!

  36. Christine Jane Nash permalink

    keep this – Vitally important!!! Als more people predictied to become deaf in the future – What about them???

  37. Debra Gregory Jones permalink

    If Deaf people in the Uk were achieving what they should be achieving there may be a reason to look at the focus but whilst they are not achieving their potential there is even more reason for deafsttudies to persist and be expanded. Deaf people have a real contribution to make to this world, communicationis the key to successful and happy lives, many hearing people could learn a thing or two!!

  38. Holly Brown permalink

    Having been on the programme several years ago, I know how completely vital this course is to the Deaf community. The staff at the centre are incredible, passionate beyond belief and are internationally recognised as being the best in their field.
    The loss of this course would be one of the biggest set backs in Deaf history.
    We cannot let this happen.

  39. Jayne Cherrington permalink

    Please keep Bristol Deaf Studies open.

  40. Philip Sewell permalink

    It is great to see the support from many people all over the world who care about keeping CDS going and feels that the decision to cut the BSc programme is wrong. I feel this is a unique degree and extremely beneficial to the Deaf community. All the lecturers and researchers, most of whom are Deaf, provide a great service with their expertise and skills and this can be witnessed by the many Deaf and hearing people that have studied there and gone on to work in related fields. This would be a terrible shame if it happens.

  41. Please keep Bristol deaf studies open, we have so many deaf people in this country; why take it away??? People need it to stay open!!!

  42. Dear Sir, I have come to know through internet/web browsing, that the Bristol University is going to withdraw from the Deaf Studies which is very sad for all the deaf community in the world. I strongly condemned that don’t act like to kill the Deaf’s Rights and don’t make a communication gap between the Deaf and Hearing World

  43. James Meaker permalink

    Keep it Open! We need this!

  44. Mark Stocks permalink

    As a hearing impaired teacher myself I think it is vital that the Deaf Studies programme continues, if it closes it is a huge loss to both the Deaf community and all hearing people who wish to learn about the Deaf.

  45. Mandy Thompson permalink

    This is absurd! This centre is one of the key landmarks in the UK for deaf studies. What ashame to cut-out something so crucial to the deaf the community, and for hearing people like me, who are so eager to learn and a build a career within this area….
    This has to be prevented.

  46. Susan Kennedy permalink

    How on earth can this happen in such a climate as ours? More and more specialist schools are being forced to close through lack of funding. As our deaf children are encouraged to embark on mainstream education it is now even more pertinent to keep this centre going and continue to educate in deaf studies and the specialisms that are required to enable this new idea to happen within those constraints.

  47. jackie commo permalink

    Just discoverd this site keep it going its very impressive its a great link to the deaf community.Maybe we could start fund raising to keep it going or apply for lottery grant. Anything to help it ,would be a big loss to many.

  48. lawler permalink

    It would make no difference to Liverpool Deaf People. None had ever been talking about Bristol Deaf Studies. None.Nothing. No advertisement on notice board. Nothing.

    But we do know that Birkenhead (river cross from Liverpool) Soap Factory Levehulme Port Sunlight had been funding great money to the Bristol Deaf Studies for many years, yet we see no concrete benefit for Birkenhead Wirral or Liverpool. No differnce. So what.?

  49. Tam Siu Yan Xavier permalink

    The Centre and the undergraduate degree program are public good to the UK society as well as the world. The Centre helps us to understand the Deafhood which would lead to social harmony. It is shame that the University had decided to cut the budget of the Centre.

  50. James permalink

    I am not surprised the funding is being cut from the CDS. Admittedly the teaching staff are extremely well qualified, but there are far too many internal politics going on and the organisation is severely lacking. Students are rarely given feedback and there are cliques formed which govern how successful your study will be. Attempts by the university to solve this problem were rebuffed by CDS.

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