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Further background to the impending threat to close CDS with the loss of jobs

by on June 27th, 2013

The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS)

is a major internationally recognised research and teaching centre.  The concept of CDS has been copied in other countries (in Ireland, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and even in the USA).  CDS has the longest standing research and teaching programmes in this field of any University in Europe – over 35 years – and has trained more Deaf Masters and Deaf Doctoral students than any other institution in the world outside of the USA.  Over 30,000 people are registered to use the online learning facility; 20,000 people downloaded the mobile sign app which we developed; over 2,000 people have been using the relay service in sign language which we created.

CDS has had a major impact on the local community, where now there are more trained Deaf people working in the local council than in any other agency in the UK.

CDS has carried out over 60 externally commissioned research projects and published over 150 articles on the subject.  CDS provides expert advice to the judicial system to tribunals and to police, education and health.

As an indication of CDS status, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, made a special visit to the Centre for Deaf Studies in 2002 and was awarded an honorary degree.

The problem
The University of Bristol has decided that the Centre does not fit with the plans of the Faculty of Social Science and has progressively reduced the student intakes in undergraduates and postgraduates, to the point where it can claim there is not enough student fee income.  It has encouraged most staff to leave voluntarily or be sacked.  Some staff have just been given notice they are to be sacked.

However, this has left research students and part-time students stranded and will abandon valuable and unique archival material on sign languages and deaf children’s early language.

Staff have challenged this process throughout and are angry that review and monitoring of progress has been carried out without consultation or transparency, without openness on finances and ultimately without understanding of the impact which CDS has on its academic community and the public at large.

A key issue
In December 2012, when questioned at the University Court, the Vice Chancellor maintained that they were not closing the Centre for Deaf Studies and in fact, were offering a subsidy of £100,000 per annum in order to ensure its viability.  However, this offer was almost immediately withdrawn without negotiation with Centre staff, when a chosen three staff were unable to agree to be demoted as part of the offer.

The University appears to wish the Centre to disappear and will report on this at the University Council meeting on 5th July 2013

Centre Staff believe
that with appropriate adjustment and management, a smaller research-focused centre is perfectly viable, which will preserve the University’s credentials in equality and diversity and continue to make major contributions to academic and public life.  However, negotiations on these plans have not been accepted by the Faculty.


Note: Interestingly, the Vice Chancellor was granted a knighthood in the Queens Birthday Honours list, this year. 


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