LETTER FROM THE PROFESSORS GROUP AGAINST THE CLOSURE OF PHILOSOPHY
To the Dean of the School of Arts and Education, the University Executive and Governors
We are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms at the plans to close Philosophy at the University. We believe that the subject makes a crucial contribution to the academic life of the University and to its reputation, both in Britain and internationally. The planned closure would do enormous damage to the standing of the University and undermine its key aims of providing high quality teaching and research.
The subject’s record in terms of research has been outstanding, an achievement confirmed in the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008). Philosophy obtained a score of 2.8, the highest score of any research unit in the University. Almost two thirds of the outputs submitted were graded as 3* or 4*, which means that it was judged as world leading or internationally excellent. These scores reflect the esteem in which the subject is held, an esteem which is subsequently translated into income. Thus in terms of per capita income earned from the RAE, Philosophy came third in the University, just behind Computing Science, which, as a science subject, attracts much higher funding per capita. In the next research exercise, under the new Research Excellence Framework, the proportion of researchers at the highest level will be even more crucial than it was in 2008.
As well as its importance as a research centre, Philosophy at Middlesex is one of the leading centres in Britain for the study of modern European philosophy. The MA programme offers a distinctive approach, which has attracted students from across the world. With 42 students admitted in 2009, it is one of the largest philosophy programmes in the UK, an attestation to Middlesex’s reputation in the field. It also attracts non-traditional students, an objective that is strongly encouraged by HEFCE. Its undergraduate applications for next year are on the rise and, with an increasing uptake of the subject in schools, philosophy may become a more popular subject in universities. It would be shameful if the possibility of studying philosophy were restricted to students able to enter the elite universities.
Philosophy at Middlesex is held in extremely high esteem nationally and internationally, as the expressions of support for the department have demonstrated. Over 12,000 people have signed a petition against the proposed action. A letter to the Times Higher Education condemning the closure was signed by dozens of the highest-profile figures in the field, all of whom have visited the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy in recent years. The condemnation of the proposed closure from academics from across the world has thus brought considerable disrepute to the University, damaging its reputation as a serious academic institution and calling into question its capacity to pursue a sustainable and long-term research strategy.
The subject’s research, teaching and international reputation are all evidence of its ‘measurable’ impact. The fact that it has failed, by only 2%, to reach an arbitrarily determined contribution of its gross income to the central administration of 55% does not represent either a sound academic or economic reason to axe this academic area. The closure of such a centre of research excellence would place a question mark over the University’s commitment to research and have deleterious effects on the morale of all research active staff at the University.
The Professors Group therefore urges the Dean of the School of Arts and Education, the Executive and the Governors of Middlesex University to reconsider their decision to close Philosophy programmes and to restore the academic and financial support which befits a research unit of such international stature.
Professors Group at Middlesex University
6th May, 2010
Signed by Professors
Jon X Bird
Rosemary Sales (Emeritus)
Olga van den Akker