King’s College: Broader Problems Still There

Shalom Lappin and Wilfried Meyer-Viol, two of those whose posts were being cut, but who have now been reinstated, have written an important letter to read.

We wish that we could tell you that the crisis at King’s has fully passed and that all is now well throughout the College. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The College management is continuing to pursue restructuring plans in other Schools, where the academic staff have been forced to re-apply for their positions. Not a few of our colleagues in these Schools remain at risk of dismissal, and some are being pressured to accept “voluntary” severance. Moreover, the events at King’s are by no means unique. They are an acute instance of a pattern that we are seeing, in one form or another, in many other universities throughout the UK. As Britain’s new government embarks on deep cuts in public spending in order to deal with the country’s large deficit, we think it likely that processes of the sort that we have been experiencing at King’s will be widespread across the entire UK university sector within the next few years.

The way in which King’s, and other universities here in the UK have been responding to the financial challenges that they are facing raises at least two fundamental issues of principle. First, in dealing with a budgetary crisis does one treat forced redundancy as the last resort, to be invoked only after all other possible methods of cost reduction have been exhausted, or does management reserve the right to dismiss academic staff at its discretion in order to optimize its revenue?

It’s worth noting, though, that philosophers’ efforts played a crucial role in turning things around for philosophy. When we’re mobilised, we can make a difference for our colleagues. The fact that we can still have such effects is some reason for hope.