A success story or a sign of worse things to come? Let’s say both, just to be on the safe side. In what must have been a whirlwind week for the Department of Philosophy at Keele University – the story having only been broken by national news sources less than ten days ago and calls of victory already ringing out this weekend – staff, students and alumni of Keele and elsewhere successfully united to overturn the decision to remove Philosophy from Keele as part of a cost-cutting exercise. After the first signs of movement, regarding the September 2011 intake of philosophy students, in which Brian Leiter quite rightly detected an as-yet-provisional tone, an official statement from the university has indicated a significant shift in the right direction:
Position regarding students holding offers in Philosophy
Following the special meeting on the 23rd March, Senate endorsed proposals to achieve savings by other means and to keep the undergraduate Philosophy course open.
Students holding an offer for entry in 2011 have been written to confirming that the Undergraduate course in Philosophy at Keele remains fully open, both for those proposing to enter it in September 2011 and for those who wish to join Keele’s Humanities Foundation Year in September with the aim of progressing to Philosophy from September 2012.
The course is equally open to those who deferred from last year their entry to Philosophy or to the Humanities Foundation Year to September 2011.
The University equally expects the course to be open for entry in September 2012 and again, students holding an offer for 2012 entry have been written to.
I have also been asked to ensure that colleagues remove all ‘Save Philosophy’ notices and posters to ensure there is no chance of conflicting messages being passed on to visitors.
An indisputable result for Keele! Their struggle, however, does represent a story quickly becoming familiar in academic philosophy in the UK, and unfortunately there is not such a happy ending in every case. The University of Liverpool’s Department of Philosophy (fondly, the author’s first stomping ground), shared success similar to Keele’s in March 2009 by resisting the threat of closure after a knee-jerk overreaction to the RAE results of that year. The Philosophy Department at Middlesex University, however, renowned for unmatched research specialties in continental philosophy, last year lost its battle against closure, provoking outrage and disbelief in the international philosophy community and forcing their Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy to up sticks and leave, finding a new home at Kingston University London.
Once again the debate rolls back around – with all the uncertainty of the cuts to arts and humanities, where does the fate of university philosophy lie?
Which department will be next, and more importantly how will they fair?
Volume 4, Issue 6, December 2009, Pages: 987–997, M. Victoria Costa
Volume 2, Issue 6, November 2007, Pages: 766–780, Paul Patton