Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Middlesex Philosophy Deparment to Close

Middlesex Philosophy Department has been closed down in what can only be described as a truly atrocious decision. Last Monday, its staff all received an email informing them that all philosophy programs were to shut. This, in effect, means they have been made redundant. There are a number of reasons Middlesex is important. It has one of the best Centre's for European Philosophy in the UK. It has an outstanding team of philosophers working there: Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne, Stella Sanford, Mark Kelly, Christian Kerslake, Andrew Goffy and Stewart Martin. On top of this, there is a thriving graduate and student community. The majority of its research is what the RAE calls 'world-leading.' Such an assault on this department is therefore also an assault on some of the best and emergent work in contemporary philosophy, and remains wholly anathema to the flourishing of philosophy as a discipline.

The logic behind this decision by all accounts is quite bizarre. The Philosophy Department is one of Middlesex University’s highest earners. Middlesex is also important for the development of philosophy in the UK; this is for the the very reason that since it is a post-92 institution it would have had to fight harder to establish its reputation. on this front it has led the way and has been a leading light in the development of philosophy in said institutions. Middlesex as it stands is one the highest rated of all the post-92 institutions in the subject.

Of course, the main reason that this is important is because it bodes ill for all philosophy programs in the current economic conditions. If a successful, and indeed financially viable philosophy centre can be shut willy-nilly this therefore bears bad tidings for other philosophy program, not to lest mention smaller departments in other subjects which may be struggling. What is most infuriating and obscene about this decision is that a centre which is financially sound, a good centre of pedagogy, which contributes half its income to its university's administration cost, is given the chop. What further annoys me about this so much is that the University authorities keep changing the goalpost, so now not only do you have to be profitable, outstanding in research and good teachers, you also have to be something else as well (and who knows what that might be!). Outside of the monetarisation of knowledge, what type of message does this send to all professional academics, and most importantly, graduate, undergraduate students as well as potential members of the labour force: expend your labour, sell your time to an employer, it will never be enough and you are expendable for some nebulous reason anyway. I think it’s time to start thinking of ways to take back the university and get educators rather than businessmen to start running it.

Original announcement from the journal Radical Philsophy here:

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Patrick O'Connor


  1. I should also add that Brian Leiter's blog has an interesting take on this. Some of the comments are also insightful

  2. Yes, very sad and misguided. Lots of good people lost here.

    Maybe the shape of things to come, and for other subjects as well? I hope not...

    Hopefully NTU can keep the flag flying for Philosophy!!

    Neil Turnbull

  3. Yes, indeed, I agree wholeheartedly. I have joined the facebook group as suggested, though aside from publicity and evidence of resistance I am never sure what facebook groups are meant to achieve? Perhaps somone could enlighten me! Certainly I am not quibbling with the notion that we should voice our opposition to this move.
    As also suggested, this is ominous. As Clare Colebrook commented on facebook, what is it about philosophy that management are so scared of? And I think one answer to that is quite clear, philosophy's questioning of the status quo.
    I do hope that sheltering under the umbrella of CCM as a joint degree protects us from these kinds of developments...

  4. This is a despicable decision indeed. I don't exactly know what they are aiming to accomplish with this decision; maybe just as Ruth said, philosophy's questioning of capitalism, politics, and all other issues related to status this a sign of Britain's changing political climate?

    I just can't stand with the idea that everything has to be money oriented. As if this is a vortex pulling everything that has worth inside and in return giving out a large amount of thrash which would shape our world.
    For many, the decision is of course nothing: "an acclaimed philosophy department is closed, so what's the big deal?"... if they were to close a department of political science or marketing, they would have fired the decision makers.
    I guess, now doing philosophy will be more meaningful. And I hope that CCM will be alright.