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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Today I have written to the University of Leicester tendering my resignation as an external examiner.

The text of resignation is below:

Dear Professor Canagarajah,

I write, following my previous correspondence of the 22nd January, to tender my resignation as an external examiner in the department of English at the University of Leicester. I wish to reiterate the concerns that I made in that email, to which I have had no response.

As you will know from my examination reports, I hold the programme at Leicester in high regard and one of its strengths is the breadth of its teaching. I am extremely worried by the proposals that I have heard to cut Medieval Literature and to reduce Early Modern teaching. In particular, I note that the QAA Subject Benchmark for English places particular emphasis on the need for “knowledge of writing from periods before 1800”. In the proposed cuts to these periods, I fear that the student experience at Leicester will be significantly diminished through a lack of choice, limiting the paths for onward study. The need for “regional and global varieties of the English language”, also specified in the QAA subject knowledge statements, is hardly well-served by cutting English Language.

I also feel that the proposal to develop modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and diversity–through a decolonised curriculum, in line with the national agenda–is important. However, it is only through the study of the Medieval and Early Modern periods that such curricula can be historically contextualised; seeing the seeds of what we sometimes view as contemporary diversity in our histories and realising that we are hardly working ex nihilo. It is clear to me that the university is cynically using the decolonising the curriculum agenda to implement short-termist cuts to faculty. To do so during a global pandemic, at a time when university staff have worked so hard to make this work for students, is also especially cruel.

That Leicester is home to our national subject association, The English Association, which is conducting vital work to ensure the ongoing vibrancy of the discipline–and that can show a clear trajectory forthcoming that will reverse the decline in English enrollments wrought by the disastrous curriculum structures at GCSE and A-Level–makes these proposed cuts even less palatable. It is not clear how Leicester can stand on the international stage, representing our core subject at university level, with these damaging proposals on the table.

In short, one of the core reasons that I am resigning from my examination position is that I will not be seen to lend my validation to a university that is choosing to gut its provision, especially at this time. I believe that the proposed cuts to English will affect compliance with QAA subject benchmark statements. I believe that the student experience at Leicester will suffer greatly as a result. And I believe that these cuts have nothing to do with a desire for diversity in the curriculum but are centred on finance.

I hereby resign from my examination post (giving the leave period) but, again, urge you to reconsider these damaging and cruel proposals.

Martin Paul Eve