Durling letter

—–Original Message—–
From: david.durling@me.com
Sent: Sat 01/05/2010 12:21
To: Ed Esche
Cc: Margaret House; Michael Driscoll; Waqar Ahmad
Subject: Closure of Philosophy at MDX

Dear Ed Esche,

I have been following this week’s announcement about the closure of Philosophy at MDX and its very public aftermath with increasing dismay, both for the individuals concerned and the reputation of the university.

In my time at MDX, working with colleagues to raise the standard of research across art and design, the achievements of the philosophy centre were a beacon to us all. They showed us just what could be achieved in a new university and in a subject where there is very strong competition from the traditional universities. I have always had the deepest admiration for CRMEP and their influence: in the school, in the university, nationally and internationally.

You simply cannot dismiss them in isolation. Perhaps I should remind you what we said in the Art and Design submission to RAE in 2008:

“ADRI is part of, and contributes to, an intellectually stimulating atmosphere within the School of Arts and Education, with adjacent RAE grade 5 units: Visual Culture; Modern European Philosophy…”

Philosophy is the touchstone of that intellectual environment. We felt their presence in the various strategic discussions leading to RAE, in the exemplary submission that they made, and in its extraordinary success.

I know that many others, both within and outwith the university, have written to you about this worst kind of managerial barbarism. Surely you must see that this decision casts a very dark shadow over other departments’ attempts to establish a strong research ethos at MDX, and has sent a shockwave through the intellectual communities of this country and overseas? The growing online petition alone is adequate testimony to the respect shown to this group of scholars, and the determination that closure should not be allowed to happen.

I rarely feel a need to write letters like this, but I judge this to be such a crass decision. I cannot understand how a university which holds such a gem could cast it out on the basis of making no ‘measurable’ contribution. No measurable contribution? The contribution is intellectual, is about ideas. Your spreadsheets cannot measure that.

It is the hope of – now several thousands of us – that this decision can be reconsidered and rescinded. There must be a better way forward than to wreck a world class act.


David Durling

Professor David Durling FDRS PhD MDesRCA BA,
Associate Dean for Research,
Birmingham Institute for Art and Design, UK.
(Previously Professor of Design, in the School of Arts & Education, Middlesex University).

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