Post Academic

Broke-Ass Schools: Middlesex University (UK) Philosophy

"Atrium at Middlesex University London at night" by Fox8901 (Public Domain)

Since we’re on the topic of academic celebs, here’s a case where they’re using their superpowers for good, fighting the epidemic of Broke-Ass Schools: Though Homi Bhabha hasn’t signed on as far as we can tell, superstars from B (Alain Badiou) to Z (Slavoj Zizek) are rallying to try and save the day for the Middlesex University philosophy program in the UK.  Many of you might have learned about this already from your Facebook news feed since a lot of academic types have joined the “Save Middlesex Philosophy!” fanpage, which now numbers of 12,000 members from around the world.  Along with the powerhouses mentioned above, esteemed scholars like Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler, Hardt & Negri, and Gayatri Spivak have co-signed a letter to the Times Higher Education in the UK speaking out against the proposed shutdown of one of the preeminent philosophy programs in Europe (which I guess we can assume is true, based on the caliber of its supporters).

Some choice quotes from the letter, below the fold

From the letter:

Philosophy is the highest-rated research subject at Middlesex. In the research assessment exercise 2008, it was rated first in philosophy among post-1992 universities, with 65 per cent of its research judged “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”.

Middlesex is widely recognised as one of the most important centres for the study of modern European philosophy anywhere in the English-speaking world. It has one of only a handful of philosophy departments left in the UK that provides both research-driven and inclusive postgraduate teaching and supervision aimed at a wide range of students, specialist and non-specialist.

The reason for shutting down Middlesex philosophy is something we’re familiar with the States, that humanities programs are becoming economically unfeasible and a drain on a university’s revenue-generating departments.  And it sounds like Middlesex is part of a Broke-Asssing trend that’s hitting humanities programs in the UK at well-known schools like Sussex and King’s College London, too, as the Guardian reports.  According to a Middlesex U official quoted in an article in the Guardian:

A Middlesex university spokesman said: “Philosophy is only able to operate with subsidies from other subject areas in the university. The university has no choice but to address this issue, particularly in the context of announced, and further anticipated, public funding cuts. We recognise this is a difficult period for philosophy staff and students, and will be working with them to determine the best way forward.”

Never mind that the shuttering up of the university’s most renowned program seems to fly in the face of an at-least rhetorical pursuit of excellence, but it’s sometimes the case that, as Prof Robert Watson of UCLA explains in a column we covered a while ago, economic arguments used against the supposedly parasitic humanities can be plain wrong.  Don’t know if that’s what’s going on here, but there’s enough reason to be skeptical on many fronts when something like this is happening and triggering such a strong response.

Check out this in-depth article in Times Higher Education, for those of you who want more details and are well-versed in Brit adminspeak.  And to find out what those in the Middlesex Philosophy program are doing, you can join the Facebook group or click over to the blog, Save Middlesex Philosophy.

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