30 April 2010
Dear Professor Esche,
I understand that the Middlesex University, under your recommendation, has decided to abolish its Philosophy Department and with it the Centre for Modern European Philosophy. The reasons given for the decision are said to be financial; you are reputed to have claimed that the Philosophy Department offers no ‘measurable contribution’ to Middlesex University. This is an astonishing claim, and a catastrophically bad decision for anyone who cares about intellectual and artistic matters in this country.
Middlesex University’s Philosophy Department is one of the most interesting and dynamic in the U.K., an astonishing achievement given the institution’s history as a ‘new’ university. Its staff have had a significant role in forcing contemporary French, German and Italian philosophy into the professional world of philosophy in the U.K., but in addition their work has had a huge impact in cognate disciplines such as literature and visual art. Many of our staff and graduate students have benefitted from the work of your colleagues in philosophy at Middlesex; they read them, discuss their work and use their ideas and writings to make and critique visual art. Their influence in all dimensions of the visual art world should not be underestimated; and I cannot help but think that their eradication will have a devastating impact on your own Fine Art Programmes’ collective ability to recruit international students. One of the primary reasons the professional art world knows and respects your excellent Fine Art Department at Middlesex is because of its close collaboration with your Philosophy Department. Philosophy will never be a direct cash cow for any University, but having a world class Philosophy Department, as you do, gives a university huge credibility and as such makes it an attractive place for international students interested in a whole range of subjects, like Fine Art, influenced by philosophy.
Your decision is therefore short sighted and at serious risk of being self-defeating. Abolishing your Philosophy Department diminishes many of your other departments and sends out a signal that in the current tough financial environment, Middlesex University is not prepared to protect world-leading scholarship. The U.K. is a hugely competitive environment for international students, and all this decision does is weaken your ability to compete in this environment. Few serious international students, and even fewer serious academics who recommend colleges abroad for their students, will be likely to choose a University that intentionally makes itself intellectually weaker. I urge you to reconsider.
Head of Art
Goldsmiths College London