Help Save Liverpool Philosophy

UPDATE: Perhaps in response to widespread outcry, the University is now backpedaling. It is undertaking a review, rather than planning a closure. I imagine supportive comments would still be very useful.

Liverpool University has apparently decided to close its philosophy department, due solely to what it considers a poor showing in the latest Research Assessment Exercise, despite the fact that the department is a strong recruiter and a money-maker. Reasons for feminist philosophers to care: We’re philosophers, and we should care when a major university starts talking about shutting down its philosophy department. There’s an unusually high ratio of women: four out of ten full-time staff are women. There’s some important feminist philosophy going on. More generally it’s a department which values and promotes a diversity of approaches, including analytic, continental, Indian and Buddhist, and a department which works hard to widen access with continuing education programs. And, of course these last traits make it harder to do well on the RAE: widening access takes time, and unusual approaches are high risk when it comes to research assessment exercises.

So how can we help? Letters about the value of what Liverpool does and the importance of keeping it open are probably the most useful thing right now. If you have specialised knowledge of the work of any of the staff members and can speak for its high quality that would be great. The staff directory can be found here. Send your letters to Sir Howard Newby at Howard.Newby@liv.ac.uk.

You may also be interested to know that there’s a Facebook Group devoted to saving the departments targeted for closure.

11 thoughts on “Help Save Liverpool Philosophy

  1. Jender, I’m so glad you did this. Apparently, they are also planning on closing politics and statistics. That suggests to me that this Newby person doesn’t have much understanding of universities, but I haven’t looked yet at his background.

  2. O dear, o dear, o dear! Here’s an article from the Guardian from two years ago, when the Newby was taking over. The managerial approach to higher education seems to allow people with little genuine leadership to boss around large numbers of faculty. I don’t know that it’s ever worked here in the States; faculty at my own university came very close to going on strike after 5 years of this sort of thing, the whole mess got acted out in the press, and a number of people had really bad experiences.

    Quite why people think they can run a university while opposing the will of the faculty has never been clear to me. I gather from talking to people who do management consulting that the style marks out the second-rate bureaucrat.

  3. I’m doing an MA in Philosophy at Liverpool Uni. Apparently Newby was booted out of University of West England for giving lucrative contracts to his mates. My mind boggles as to why the powers that be took him on here. It is a disgrace what they are trying to do – Liverpool is one of the only places in England which teaches continental and way of life orientated philosophy. It is also producing some crucial feminist research, all of which would be lost, not just to Liverpool, but to the whole country if this idiot gets his way. The feminist intellectual community would suffer a serious blow should the department close, as it is one of the few departments in the country not dedicated to the traditional, unavoidable patriarchal, analytic philosophy which I came to Liverpool to avoid. This closure is another ignorant step towards attempting to quantify education in terms of money, when no amount of money can be used to quantify the intellectual future of a city supposedly dedicated to culture. Rumour also has it that Newby wants to sell off the buildings of the departments he hopes to close to developers in order to convert them into a hotel, which I believe to be his true motives, especially considering that the numbers of students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, is at an all time high. The department is flourishing, it is losing the University no money, the research coming out of the department is world class, although it is low in quantity. This is blatant profiteering dressed up in the guise of modernisation. Although we have stopped the imminent closure, the department is still under threat of closure in the future, amalgamation with other departments, or even being moved to a different institution. This is still not good enough, which is why we need sustained support and pressure, especially from the international community. Please continue to voice your disgust at this outrage, Newby and his marketing team need to be told that the world will not stand for this. Thanks for any support you all can offer and have been offering.

  4. J– As you know from my post, I strongly support keeping Liverpool open, and one of the reasons I cite is the diversity of approaches that flourish there. However, I am myself an analytic feminist philosopher, and I’d like to think that can serve as some indication that analytical philosophy is not “unavoidably patriarchal”. I understand and share your anger at Newby’s actions, but I deeply disagree with your rejection of all analytic philosophy. Just as I take continental feminism seriously, perhaps you should consider taking analytic feminism seriously. Narrow-mindedness on either side is, I think, a serious problem.

  5. I’m sorry, I suppose I haven’t expressed myself very well, I was just a bit angry as I was writing. What I was referring to as ‘unavoidably patriarchal’, is the history of western philosophy. I meant that philosophy is traditionally based upon male points of view; even philosophy unconcerned with gender can accidentally rely upon essentially patriarchal premise. So my point in the previous post was that Liverpool is one of the few places which is helping to break out of this tradition and re-evaluate the entire history that philosophy and the western world is based upon, not that analytic philosophy is itself patriarchal. Even the way of life/continental philosophy which interests me must, at least in part, be taken in an analytical way, unless I start wearing a toga and walking off cliffs. I have no problem with analytic philosophy, indeed Liverpool has some excellent logicians, metaphysicians, epistemologists etc. working in the department! I just think, juxtaposed with that, we need a more way of life-y approach. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer, I just think it’s sad that Liverpool and Leeds are basically the only places that have departments like these. I honestly have nothing against analytic philosophy, as I am, to a certain extent, an analytic philosopher myself. Anyway, my badly worded arguments are not the point here. Save Philosophy in Liverpool!

  6. Thanks for the clarification, J! Glad to hear to you haven’t written us all off! Though it’s worth noting there are other departments which have both analytic and continental folks– Lancaster, Sheffield, Nottingham and Essex spring to mind.

  7. Regarding the update, I think it would be more accurate to say that there has been a small political concession by the senate of Liverpool University by altering the wording of the proposal from departments ‘should’ be closed to departments ‘might’ be closed. The threat of closure is still very very real and the protest movement needs to be accelerated. By all accounts, the VC is somebody who likes to achieve his aims…

    P.S. Please join the Facebook protest group – type in ‘save our subjects’ into the search box.

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