Byline: KATKEOGH Education Correspondent
More than 200 staff and students staged a protest over the closure of a world-renowned archaeology centre at the University of Birmingham. The award-winning Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham, which played a key role in the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, has been axed with the loss of eight jobs.
Its experts helped excavate the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, and also played a leading role in recent discoveries at Stonehenge.
University bosses said it would be replaced with a new joint department of classics and ancient history, which will house a new Centre for Archaeological Studies.
Members of the Save the IAA campaign group staged a protest on Wednesday at the university's Edgbaston campus.
Campaigners waved banners outside the university library, and also unfurled a 30-metre long petition with 1,800 signatures against the closure of the institute.
Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), which previously said the closure would have a "devastating impact" on UK archaeology, have voted to consider strike action in response to the plans.
Branch chairman David Bailey said: "Our members are extremely angry about these proposals.
"There is no valid reason for the archaeology department to be closed, and no reason for these compulsory redundancies. A huge amount of academic expertise will be simply discarded by the university despite the lack of any financial problems - the university is currently running a PS27 million annual profit."
The institute's excavation work on the Staffordshire Hoard helped ensure the ancient haul was extracted safely after it was found in a field in Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in July 2009.
Academics also uncovered ancient burial pits …