Mullarkey letter

28 April 2010

Dear Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellors, and Dean,

I wish to convey to you my consternation at the decision to close Philosophy at Middlesex University (of which I have just learned). No doubt you are being lobbied by many others already on this matter, but, as the External Programme Reviewer for Philosophy at Middlesex, it is my academic duty to alert you to the future problems that will follow should this closure go ahead.

I have taught at various institutions, both here in the UK and abroad, and I can tell you that such an action will be met with dismay by numerous people around the world, be they educators, graduates, or other stake-holders. This is because Middlesex Philosophy has a reputation that goes well beyond its size: it is clearly a leading department in the field (by all measures), and to close it flies in the face of any logic, be it academic or financial.

As you must know, a university lives or dies on its reputation, so any damage to Middlesex’s reputation as a serious academic player in general, must also harm each of its component schools and subjects in the long run. Taking this fact into account, I can tell you now that many academics working world-wide in the Humanities will have only ever heard of the existence of Middlesex University on account of its Philosophy department. Its teaching, its research, and the numerous events it runs, are all extremely well known, influential, and admired, be it within London, the UK, or abroad.

You already know, of course, that the quality of teaching and research done at Middlesex Philosophy is second to none: but I and others can confirm to you in addition that it is especially this world-class research that raises Middlesex university above the rest of the post-1992 institutions. Indeed, I know of no other subject in your institution with such a recognition factor. And, without such achievements and recognition in research, what is a university is worth?

I find it extremely troubling, therefore, to learn that the call for closure has come from the supposed fact that no ‘measurable benefit’ stems from these achievements of Philosophy at Middlesex. Yet even commercial logic dictates that brand-image requires investments that can only have indirect benefits. Hence, I am only asking you, as fellow academics and administrators, to be realistic (in these days especially). To strike a parallel: in the world of commerce, neither Microsoft nor Apple can find any measurable benefit from their R&D departments because they have no sales directly linked to their research. Sales income comes later and indirectly. But does this mean that there is no benefit to such research? Of course not: the benefit comes later and globally to the brand as a whole, due to the quality of its individual activities (in this case, software and hardware).

Today, the Middlesex brand is gaining notoriety across the country and the globe, where it previously had respect. It is clearly possible, however, to win back that respect by showing the mature judgement and reflection that can enable management to reverse a decision.

I do implore you, then, to take the decision to keep Philosophy as soon as possible, before the image of Middlesex is irredeemably tarnished.

I am, of course, free to speak with any of you in person (face to face if needs be), to explain further the reasons for keeping Philosophy at Middlesex open for business.

Best wishes

John Mullarkey

Dr John Mullarkey

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
Head of Department
School of Humanities
College of Arts & Social Sciences
University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN

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