Name can't save Loughborough's star department

Loughborough University is to close its highly respected department of information science, despite warnings of "negative reputational impact".

The department's closure was confirmed to its 25 staff last week, following a strategic review that concluded it should be replaced by a centre for information management within Loughborough's School of Business and Economics.

The department's website boasts of "a national and international reputation", and notes that The Times Good University Guide 2013 ranked it top for librarianship and information management.

In a statement, Loughborough says that the centre will "allow the university to better integrate the strengths it has in research, teaching and enterprise in the department of information science and the School of Business and Economics, and will build on the expertise and reputation of both". It adds that the move "reflects the university's commitment to meeting the needs of today's and tomorrow's information society".

The statement says there are no plans for redundancies, pledges that all existing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes will continue, and adds: "New programmes will also be developed, ensuring that the university is able to meet the current and future needs of those working in the information sectors."

It claims that the changes were agreed following "an extensive consultation process". However, minutes from a Loughborough senate meeting held on 4 July note that a "significant proportion" of the department's staff expressed "major reservations" about the move. These included "the potentially negative reputational impact associated with the loss of departmental status" and the limited scope of the centre's proposed research.

Staff also complained about the "limited period" they had been given to respond to the consultation.

Iain Stevenson, director of the Centre for Publishing at University College London, has resigned as an external examiner for Loughborough in protest at the closure.

"The department has always attracted excellent students and the work I have examined there has been of a very high standard," he said.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

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