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Jun 30 13

Response to mis-information from University of Bristol


The University press office is currently circulating the text below which is misleading and incorrect.


Responses to these in brackets <  > and italics


“The Faculty has vigorously pursued all viable routes to sustain the Centre, but has concluded – with regret – that this is not possible.


<this is obviously incorrect, or else we would not have a campaign>



There are eight research students currently registered to Deaf Studies research programmes and a small number of students on the MSc in Deafhood Studies.  


<this is a diversion – research students were accepted for 2013-14 but their offers have been withdrawn.  There were also other applications which have been ignored..>


The Faculty is in discussion with each of the students to consider how the University can best support them to complete the programme of study for which they are registered. 


<the students have sent a clear message to the University with their expectations of Deaf Studies support – no adequate response has been received – only a threat that they would be treated as having withdrawn if they did not have individual discussions with the University>


Following an extensive review process, the School of Applied Community Health Studies closed on 31 July 2011.  The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) remained within the Faculty with the intention that it be relocated to another School once it had developed a sustainable suite of activities and the Faculty appointed an external consultant to advise on options for the Centre and took receipt of a report in February 2011, with recommendations around support for business exploitation activities and project management support . 


<as usual part of the facts – the Centre was to be relocated in autumn 2011 – no attempt was made to do this in consultation with CDS staff>


Guided by this input, CDS developed a business plan in June 2011, which outlined its proposed activities and aims, focusing on the creation of a research-led teaching environment at Masters and Doctoral level and the generation of revenue from the development and promotion of learning products for the Deaf and hearing communities.  The Faculty welcomed this plan and responded in detail which included key performance indicators and targets, and confirming that a review of the Centre’s progress in relation to these targets would be undertaken in March 2013.


<the plan required support with marketing and development and this was the basis of the plan – however, virtually no support was forthcoming and a part time project manager appeared 18 months after it was recommended – too late to do anything about it>


The Faculty then worked with colleagues within CDS to support the realisation of the Business plan.


<there is absolutely no evidence of the Faculty working to realise the business plan>


In the summer of 2012 the existing Masters programme had to be withdrawn as it did not receive enough applicants to make it viable.  


<nonsensical as the masters programme had to continue to run and did run because of part-time students and research students – the University turned away some £30-40k income.>


At the same time concern was rising that the Centre was struggling to meet its financial objectives as part of the business plan, and research success rates had fallen further since the instigation of the business plan.  


<fictional – no discussion was held which would lead to revision of the business plan>


Against this backdrop the Faculty undertook steps to try to support the Masters programme and a new Masters programme in Applied Deafhood Studies was conceived.


<again nonsensical.  The Centre was required to spend 6 months developing a new programme, which was never marketed.>


The  new business case supporting this programme proposal indicated that the programme would require a ring-fenced subsidy, to which the University agreed.  However, despite the support from the Faculty and an agreed annual subsidy from the University, the programme will not run as anticipated as the University was not able to secure the continued employment of the relevant academics within the Centre.


<this is simply incorrect – NO attempt was made to discuss with the relevant academics – and a ridiculous attempt was made to try to force demotion on senior staff and suggestions that people who had no appropriate qualifications might teach masters – no discussion with relevant staff was held>


Having conducted the review of progress against the business plan in March 2013 as planned, it was evident that there was very little chance that the business plan targets could be met.


<CDS have absolutely rejected this review which was conducted without discussion and used financial data which was not part of the business plan, in order to make it seem that there was a deficit>


Equality considerations have been taken into account throughout this process since 2009 and will continue to be taken into consideration.  


<no equality process has been undertaken with staff>


We will also continue to consult with staff and students on an individual basis to support them as appropriate.


<that is completely unsubstantiated>


<This statement is just full of holes, inaccuracies and mis-information>


Your letters of support are clearly having an impact. The Save Deaf Studies campaign is grateful for your ongoing support. Please continue to write in protest against the closure.




Jun 27 13

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


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. 


Jun 27 13

A history of CDS: the heritage that will be lost with closure


The Centre for Deaf Studies has been active in the University of Bristol since 1978.

It has a policy of bilingualism in its work and teaching. As of June 2013 there are 14 staff.

Below is a general overview of the achievements of the Centre in the 35 years since it began.


1978: First funded research on sign language in the UK – examined Interpreter performance and sign language

1979: Convened the first national Workshop on Sign Language

1980: Publication of the first Coding Manual for British Sign Language

1980: Organised the first National Conference on Sign Language in the UK

1981: First University Certificate course in British Sign Language for professionals

1981: First Book collection of research in Sign Language and Deafness

1981: First International Conference on Sign Language, in the UK – first time interpreters contracted and prepared for a major meeting; first international meeting of sign language interpreters

1983: First EC funded research work to create an archive, which has now grown to over 40 sign languages

1984: Deaf Studies Trust set up as a charity to support research and development

1984: The term Deaf Studies used first in Bristol

1985: First textbook on British Sign Language – still in use

1985: Diploma in Social Science in Deaf Studies set up in the University of Bristol

1985: First International Deaf Researchers Workshop

1986: Formation of ISLA – International Sign Linguistics Association, Bristol HQ

1987: First extended training at University Certificate level for sign language interpreters (part-time)

1990: Access Initiative for Deaf Students set up in Bristol to support deaf students across the University (providing interpreters) – the first in Europe – later evolved into independent Access Unit

1990: First Full time training programme for sign language interpreters (2 year)

1992: First full-time training programme for deaf people taught in sign language at University level; first research Masters  by Deaf sign language user

1993: Diploma of Higher Education set up – the first undergraduate programme in the UK that focussed on Deaf Studies;  collaborative work in Moscow to create a multilingual school for Deaf children

1995: Family Centre for Deaf Children set up as an independent organisation for the parents of deaf children

1995-2000: CDS co-ordinates FORUM – a training partnership in 9 EU countries; training for sign language interpreters in Ireland, Portugal and Greece

1996: First UK deaf-led project based in Africa – in Northern Uganda – funded by Oxfam and Comic Relief

1997: First research project involving all 15 countries of the EU (and Norway and Iceland) directed by CDS

1999: First BSc & MSc in Deaf Studies; first Deaf PhD in Deaf Culture; New Linguistics textbook on BSL; Interpreter pathway (3 years) in BSc

2001: First Professorship focused only on Deaf Studies

2002:  The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, visits the Centre for Deaf Studies and is awarded an Honorary Degree by the University

2003: First book on Deafhood (Ladd)
Opening of Daily News service in BSL (

2004: First book on sign language poetry (Sutton-Spence)

2005: Set up of online resource on deaf awareness and sign language learning for hearing learners of BSL (

2007: Mobile sign – world’s first mobile phone sign language dictionary (

2008:  Thirty Years anniversary – longest established Centre in Europe; Deafstation over 4,000 registered users; Signstation over 12,000 registered users

2009:  Signstation reaches 15,000 registrations; First Applied Sign Linguistics conference

2010:  Signstation reaches over 20,000 registrations; promotion of Total Conversation solution for telecoms for Deaf people; First degree in Deafhood Studies

2011:  Large scale European Pilot project involving close work with police and fire service emergency control centres in five countries;  REACH112 relay service active in UK with access to 999.

2012:  SIgnstation reaches over 30,000 registrations; REACH112 has over 6,000 video communication calls per month;  report on access to justice adopted by Solicitors Regulation Authority as guidance for all solicitors in the UK

2013: Mobile sign app is downloaded by over 20,000 people; key report on Deaf people’s health to be published


Throughout this time, CDS has hosted visits by staff and students from all over the world and from a wide range of disciplines and has collaborated with researchers worldwide.

Jun 24 13

University of Bristol plans to let the Centre for Deaf Studies disappear!


After 35 years of highly respected work, the leading international research centre for work with Deaf people in the University of Bristol is set to close down if the Faculty’s plans are adopted on 5th July at the University Council.

All staff have been given notice that their jobs are to go…by 31st July 2013.

Many staff had the ‘option’ to go voluntary or be sacked: some choice!  But some staff haven’t even been given that choice – they are simply going to be made redundant, with no options open to them.  This makes a mockery of the University claim that staff are ‘choosing’ to leave…. and that it’s all their fault….

Why are the University closing the Centre?

They decided to close the successful undergraduate programme – so no more sign language interpreters at Bristol, from 2013.

They decided to close the Masters programme because staff would not accept to go part-time and accept poorer conditions.

They say there is not enough income … but, of course, stop the courses and you stop the income!  The union and CDS staff have objected without success.

They did an internal review but CDS were not given any of the figures and were not allowed to take part or make presentation to the review.  CDS strongly oppose the review conclusions.

The Vice Chancellor announced to University Court in December 2012, that he did not want to close the Centre and offered a £100,000 subsidy.  But then they withdrew it  – no offer unless certain staff accept to be downgraded. …… so no money.

What people say:

Union convenor, James Annett, says “for such an important centre which promotes diversity in the University, it is vital that a proper independent review of the finances is conducted and the U-turn on the Vice Chancellor’s offer should be questioned”

Professor Alys Young of the Univeristy of Manchester said:

“Since its inception, the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol has been transformational, both for the academic field and for the everyday lives of Deaf people.  Its research has driven major steps forward in the quality of life, well-being and citizenship rights of Deaf people in the UK and internationally.  It was a great privilege for me to do my PhD and post doctoral work there and that experience has had a profound influence on my values and my career”.

Dr Chris Stone of Gallaudet University in Washington, USA, adds

“The proposed closure of the CDS is devastating for the disciplines of both Deaf Studies and Sign Language Interpreting Studies. Having studied and worked at the CDS the academic team’s ability to nurture in-depth understanding of ‘being deaf’ in a non-deaf world is unparalleled in Europe and one of the foremost places to study globally.”

What can you do?

Tell people what is happening……

Write to the Vice Chancellor and to the Chair of the Council….. right away

Tell them:

1.     we want the subsidy the Vice Chancellor announced in December – honour the promise!

2.     we want an independent review of the finances

3.     we want a proper impact assessment – the decision affects the Deaf community and the hearing community

Please write now!

Professor Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor, University of Bristol, Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK

by email: to his exec assistant:


Mr Denis Burn, Chair of Council, University of Bristol, Senate House, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK

by email:  also through  Clerk to Council:

You can refer to the Dean’s report/proposals which have been sent to the Council.

Sep 29 10

The Campaign Carries On…

by Greg

Hello again to all our supporters and friends, its been a long summer with much work involved for all of us in the campaign team.

We would like to say thank you to all of those people who helped us during our initial campaign this spring, whether this was signing our petition, writing letters or coming to our protests, it all helps.

It appears that our efforts have had some effect as University management have lessened the pressure of cuts on CDS in the short term; however, the fight does not end there and with the government announcing its Spending Review on 20th October, things look set to get worse for everyone and so the fight to save the Centre for Deaf Studies and it’s BSc Deaf Studies degree looks set to carry on through the ‘autumn of discontent’ which will see campaigning events being held by the Save Deaf Studies campaign as well as nationally by the UCU and NUS unions.

The University’s next step in its quest to aimlessly swing its unfair and shortsighted battleaxe of cuts upon CDS has been to appoint a temporary ‘Facilitator’ who will;

  • Investigate where CDS can be re-located within the University – All the other departments and faculties are being told to cut, will they want another new centre amidst the need to cut…
  • Investigate how staff who stand to lose their jobs as the degree gets dissolved in 2013. – We can’t see how teaching staff can be kept beyond 2013 as no alternative course has been proposed or guaranteed.

One of our responses to these actions has been to hold a ‘public meeting’, which has been proposed by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU). It is hoped this will take place mid-October, after the Spending Review is announced and we intend to highlight the effects these cuts will have on CDS and higher education elsewhere.

We want to hold this meeting around the time of any Demonstrations, BUT NOT ON THE SAME DAY! – Tell us when your Demos are happening at

If you think you can help with setting up our ‘public meeting’ such as finding a venue or would like to speak then please also e-mail us, any help us appreciated.

Finally, the UCU, both locally and nationally are supporting our campaign and more importantly, so are you! Thank you again for all your support that hasn’t been without impact :-). The BSc degree will continue to be taught until 2013 though, whatever happens, however, beyond that, there are no guarantees.

All of which means the campaign continues to remain extremely important, and we’ve remained committed to trying to ensure the Centre has a future that involves teaching and research.

Please carry on supporting our cause, our staff, our students and most importantly, the 70,000 strong Deaf community who efforts work to support on a daily basis.

Thank you,


Save Deaf Studies Campaign Team