Petitioning Vice-Chancellor of London University Professor Sir Adrian Smith

Abandon the recommendation to break up the Institute of English Studies


On Thursday, 15 May 2014, Professor Roger Kain, the Dean and Chief Executive of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, published a letter announcing ‘the University’s formal response to the news that HEFCE funding for SAS will be cut by 3% with effect from 2014–15’.

In effect, the proposal outlined the closure of the Institute of English Studies (IES), an internationally renowned research centre, specialising in the history of the book, manuscript and print studies and textual scholarship ( The Palaeography and History of the Book part of the IES would be merged with the Institute of Historical Research; some of the rest of its activities would become part of Comparative Literature within  the Institute of Modern Languages Research.

If these recommendations are accepted, most of the IES’s activity, including its high-profile conferences, its 40-odd research seminar series, across the full range of English language and literature, visiting fellowships, collaborations, research projects, training programmes and summer schools, would cease.

What is proposed is a direct assault on the value and integrity of the Institute and of English studies as a discipline. The study of English at national and international levels will be immeasurably damaged, and almost all of what has been most valuable in the IES’s work during the last quarter century would disappear.

Letter to
Vice-Chancellor of London University Professor Sir Adrian Smith
You will see that another person has signed the petition calling upon the University of London to reject the recommendations of the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group to break up the Institute of English Studies. There has been no consultation with interested parties about this, and the move can only be construed as an attack on the subject – one of the largest Humanities subjects in the UK – at a national and international level: it will bring the University of London into disrepute.

We urge you to stop this process and to consider alternatives to meeting the savings called for by HEFCE.

The Co-Chairs of the Steering Group of Save the IES

Professor Anne Varty (Head of the Department of English Royal Holloway University of London)
Professor Gordon Campbell DLitt, FBA (Professor of Renaissance Studies, University of Leicester)