Philosophy department to be closed at Middlesex University

It seems that Middlesex University is planning to shut its Philosophy Department, despite the fact that the department performed well in the last RAE, and is attracting a good number of students. You can read more here. There is also a petition on this site. If anyone has any further info on this, do let us know.

13 thoughts on “Philosophy department to be closed at Middlesex University

  1. In recent years Middlesex has become one of the centers of recent “Continental” Philosophy in the English speaking world, perhaps the center. Eric Alliez is one of Deleuze’s best known and most “productive” students, Peter Hallward has both translated Badiou’s key works and written a lot of the most influential articles about him, Christian Kerslake is a co-editor of Deleuze studies and has a book on “desiring machines,” Peter Osborne has written very well reviewed books on conceptual art, modernity and the avant-guarde, and philosophy’s contribution to theories of culture, Stella Sandford has books on de Beauvoir and Plato and Sex from a Continental feminist perspective. And so on. Hallward and Osborne are co-editors of Radical Philosophy, which is one of the main places to go to get a sense of what people interested in contemporary Continental philosophy are up to. To my knowledge, in the last decade or so there is no other philosophy department in the U.K., Canada, or Australia where as much high-level work in contemporary Continental Philosophy has been done.

    It does seem important to note that this particular cut isn’t just about money. It is about wiping out with a single stroke an institutional space that allowed heterodox philosophy to flourish. It’s not wrong to call it an attack on the humanities, but that’s way too vague. It’s really an attack on pluralism in philosophy, although fewer people would probably sign the petition if it were categorized that way.

  2. Tony Smith: you seem to suggest that if the philosophy department at Middlesex Uni practiced less heterodox philosophy, they perhaps wouldn’t be facing closure. But that seems wrong to me, given what I’ve read of the Dean’s reasons for closing the department. Other forms of philosophy are no ‘better’ at generating money than the sorts of philosophy practiced at Middlesex. Since the issue is the lack of big money to be made from philosophy, this is an attack not just on so-called Continental Philosophy (I say ‘so-called’ because unlike a lot of other folk, I don’t think there is a clearcut division between this sort of philosophy and so-called ‘Analytic’ philosophy), not just on Philosophy, not just on the Humanities, but on the very idea of education as something whose worth is not primarily measured in terms of money-generation.

  3. Monkey, I don’t read Smith as saying that the cause for closure is the fact that Middlesex represents excellent continental philosophy, but rather that the loss of this department is particularly sad because it undermines breadth of scholarship in philosophy more generally.

  4. Seems like a case of a moronic dean and executive… if they really want to maximize their income they shouldn’t stop with philosophy but instead close all the departments and start over as a business/high finance school

    Seriously, though, does anyone here happen to know what exactly a “university executive” is over there? Also, what is Band D and Band C?

  5. Hmm – I think you might be right, Alpha. Sorry TS if I’ve misconstrued your comment. I read it shortly after receiving an email from Philos-L, which was suggesting that the lack of people writing outraged emails on the list was potentially due to the ‘analytic-continental’ divide. That rather annoyed me, and I subsequently read yr comment in that light.

  6. It would surely be a mistake to refrain from defending them because they are not analytic.

    I wonder if people are getting protest-fatigue.

  7. JJ – yes of course, but I don’t suppose anyone is refraining from defending them for that reason. Let me clarify: many, many emails of outrage have been sent to the relevant university executives. The Philos-L poster was complaining about the lack of outraged emails being sent to the Philos-L list. But, of course, Philos-L is not supposed to be a list for people to rant and vent (although some members of the list do seem to forget that fact from time to time). It’s for people to pass on information to each other. I understand from people running the Middlesex campaign that there has been overwhelming support for it from the profession. So it seemed rather irksome to suggest that (i) the lack of outrage being expressed on Philos-L was indicative of a lack of support for the campaign; and (ii) this was something to do with the nature of the philosophy practiced at Middlesex.

  8. Anonymous – Band D refers to general arts and humanities students; Band C refers to those doing lab or field work as part of their course. A band D student is ‘worth’ around 4K, whilst a band C student is ‘worth’ around 5K. The university wants to recruit students to higher costing courses, but run them for less, thus increasing its profit margin. A university executive is someone responsible in some mysterious way for running the university. Most academics engaged in the usual university business of teaching, research, and departmental administration have no idea what they do :P

  9. Monkey

    Thanks! I guess what they should’ve done (given their perverse goal) is just increased their tuition for band D courses. As for the executive, this reinforces my opinion regarding univ. administrators: since they can and often do do ( ;-) ) a great deal of harm and almost nothing of benefit, it’s better when possible to have boards with complicated procedures (filibuster, anyone?) instead of individuals to make it more difficult for them to do anything.

  10. As things stand in the UK, they can’t increase their tuition for band D courses – the government have set fee caps. The band D and C costings are also government costings, and they set how much money the university will receive for students in the different bands. As someone on Leiter pointed out, the government costings are supposed to reflect how much it costs to deliver a course to a student. By seeking to increase its profit margin by attracting different band students, Middlesex must be intending to deliver the relevant courses for less than the government costing. Students have reason to be pissed off about that.

    There are university boards. But they seem to be made up of executives with the same sort of money-minded views.

  11. Thanks again, what you said about tuition and costs clears it up even further (I haven’t checked out the discussion over at Leiter’s)!

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