5 May 2010
Every academic knows that these are difficult times for universities, in which they are sometimes obliged to take difficult and painful decisions. Moreover, to those responsible for running an institution and familiar with every aspect of its workings, interventions from outside may appear officious and ill-informed. None the less, there are many reasons why it seems justified to urge you to reconsider the decision that has, as I understand, been taken to close all Philosophy programmes at Middlesex.
The Philosophy department at Middlesex is very strong. Its performance in RAE2008 is impressive. By my calculations its GPA of 2.8 puts it just behind Cambridge, level with Nottingham, well ahead of Manchester, and vastly ahead of other post-92 universities. 20% of the submission was assessed as world-leading. This result is all the more impressive in that it is a very unusual department, one of the few that highlights the study of so-called ‘continental philosophy’, which is often dismissed by practitioners of the dominant Anglo-American tendency. It will be a severe blow to the subject nationally if this department were to close.
I gave a paper to the department seminar a couple of years ago. The attendance of staff and postgraduate students was excellent, the quality of discussion very high, and certainly challenging. This was a very strong indication of a thriving research culture, an atmosphere of keen debate informed by knowledge and understanding at a high level.
In short, this is a thriving and distinctive unit and its closure, whatever practical benefit it may have in the short term, must surely gravely weaken the academic standing of the University.
Michael Moriarty, FBA
Centenary Professor of French Literature and Thought
Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques
School of Languages, Linguistics, and Film
Queen Mary, University of London
London E1 4NS