From: Urgent Announcement [Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll]
Sent: Fri 28/05/2010 17:21
To: All University Staff
Subject: Update on Philosophy provision
I am writing to give you the latest information regarding plans to phase out Philosophy programmes and the recent forced occupations of University premises.
As you will know, Middlesex University has taken the decision to phase out the teaching of undergraduate Philosophy programmes over the next two years and not to recruit to its postgraduate research or part-time taught programmes.
This decision followed six months of detailed consultation with Philosophy staff, and ratified initial analysis from the School of Arts and Education. This analysis – following a process used regularly to assess the viability of courses within the University – highlighted a decline in undergraduate student numbers (over several years), low research funding (a decline in Hefce research funding and a lack of any external research funding at present) and lack of income from other areas. This has meant that Philosophy requires significant cross-subsidies from other programmes, which restricts the School’s ability to invest in and develop other areas.
This combination of circumstances led to the proposal to phase out the teaching over two years. This was discussed with the Philosophy team in October 2009, and the Executive invited them to submit alternative options for addressing the above issues. However, none of the ideas received would resolve the issues identified and ensure the viability of the programmes. The decision to phase out teaching was therefore confirmed and announced at the end of April.
There have been a number of protests regarding this decision. We fully support everyone’s right to free speech and peaceful protest. However, the University has to intervene when protests put the health of safety of others at risk and when such protests disrupt other staff and students from pursuing their work. In addition, the forced occupation of two University buildings involved assaults on staff. The occupation of the Library at Trent Park on 20 May also breached a High Court injunction.
Following the occupations, we temporarily suspended four students whom we knew to have been involved in both occupations, pending a hearing. Their hearings took place today. I am pleased that these students acknowledged that the occupations were disruptive to fellow staff and students and that they expressed regrets regarding any injuries that may have been caused. All four students received formal warnings that they must comply with the terms of the High Court injunction and a temporary exclusion from the University. They agreed to this and also to comply in future with the detail of the University student Code of Conduct. The temporary exclusions mean that they may enter any University premises but only with permission (which will not be unreasonably withheld).
We will be writing to other students we believe to have been involved in the occupations to ask them to come in for discussions, following which we will take decisions on any disciplinary steps required. We hope to have completed this process by the end of June. Subject to satisfactory undertakings from the students involved, we hope all students will be able return to normal studies.
Three staff from the Philosophy department have also been issued with temporary suspensions as we believe they may have been involved in forced occupations and associated activities. Following confirmation of the decision to phase out Philosophy programmes, we had hoped to be able to discuss options for the future with the individuals concerned, as we have with staff involved in other programmes which have closed in the past. We also anticipated that they would work with us on the planned transition (as have other staff in similar circumstances).
In accordance with the University’s Staff disciplinary Procedure, a suspension on full pay may be made where there are allegations of possible misconduct. This allows time for investigation of the allegations and to determine whether a disciplinary case is required. The three individuals continue to conduct assessment work and tutorials so that the quality of courses for students is not impacted.
We want to reach a point at which we are able to effectively plan the next steps required for these programmes in discussion with staff and students. We remain committed to helping Philosophy students gain a quality teaching and experience throughout the remainder of their course.
I will keep you informed of progress on this issue.