Phillips letter

30 April 2010

Dear Michael Driscoll,

I am writing to you in order to complain strongly about your decision to terminate the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex. My interest in this matter is twofold. First of all, I recently undertook an MA and a PhD at the Centre. I successfully completed the PhD in 2009, according to the terms of a Research Student Tutor bursary awarded by the University. I therefore have first hand experience of the successful research that goes on at the Centre. And having come into contact with other institutions, I have first hand experience of the distinctiveness of the Centre – backed up by its research excellence, of which you will know from the various RAE assessments of recent years.

The distinctiveness of the Centre brings me to my second interest in the prospective closure, which I want to focus upon as a representative of a particular yet sizable intellectual community. I want to emphasise the impact this decision will have beyond the walls of Middlesex. Each and every university comprises a constituent part of the UK academy and, more broadly, of an international intellectual discourse. This is a crucial point because the Centre is not like any other philosophy department, and yet, at the same time, it represents a geniunely broad and living intellectual field, of so-called Continental philosophy. The broadness of the existence of this field can readily be shown by highlighting the publications, both books and journals, as well as international conferences, that continue to emerge under its banner.

As a constituent part of the UK academy, therefore, Middlesex University has a responsibility to continue to provide for research that it has already established as an important part of the wider discourse. It is both practically unfair and anti-intellectual to pull the plug after having switched on the tap (including the investment of bursaries, such as the one I was awarded). It is practically unfair because people such as myself have made professional commitments to a field of research that they expected to continue into the recent future. It is anti-intellectual because it erodes a discourse that constitutes an international community of researchers.

These are perhaps moral arguments. But according to your own institutional obligations, you are by this act failing as a public institution to reflect and nurture broadly held intellectual interests. I would like to remind you that the job of the university is to provide universal higher education. That Middlesex will relinquish its title of university, if this decision goes through, is clear enough. My point is that the particular situation of Middlesex is irrevocably bound to that of the UK university as a whole.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Wesley Phillips
11 Stanway Road

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