BPA letter to Lord Stern’s review of REF

The UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills have appointed Lord Nicholas Stern to review the Research Excellence Framework. They issued a ’call for evidence’ in January 2016 (here), in order to (in their words) "explore some of the issues raised and investigate ways in which a simpler, lighter-touch, system for the REF might be developed." The BPA contacted Heads of Departments of Philosophy around the UK to solicit responses, and we’re grateful to all of those who replied. We were helped enormously by Prof Alexander Bird, who was the Chair of the REF panel for philosophy in 2014 – his insights about the most pertinent issues likely to affect philosophy have been enormously useful. Our response is available here.

Academics under threat in Turkey

The BPA have endorsed a public statement of support for Turkish academics – including philosophers – who are being subjected to investigation, arrest and prosecution for signing a petition calling for peace in Turkey. The statement has been organised by the Scholars At Risk (SAR) network, and can be found here. Many university administrations have been pressured by Turkey’s Higher Education Council into starting investigations into philosophers who signed the petition, and this includes prestigious universities that hire internationally. The BPA and other philosophical associations are deeply concerned by these developments – we support our colleagues in Turkey and call for the investigations and charges to be dropped and for the government of Turkey to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom.

More information on the situation can be found on the SAR page here. There is an open petition here which is collecting signatures, and the BPA encourages its members to add their signatures and to circulate the link widely.

Reply to BiS consultation: ’Fulfilling Our Potential’ Green Paper on Teaching Excellence Framework proposals

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Inovation and Skills opened a consultation in November 2015 on their Green Paper ’Fulfilling Our Potential: teaching excellence, social mobility’. The BPA collaborated with colleagues from other subject associations across the humanities through the Arts and Humanities Alliance (AHA, website here), an umbrella group, to put together a forthright response endorsed by over 20 professional associations. You can find that document here. We also thought about whether there were any issues raised by the green paper which might affect philosophy in particular – that is, ways in which the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework might be in tension with the kinds of things that the BPA think are importantly in need of consideration given the way that philosophy exists in universities, as opposed to just general difficulties thrown up by the proposals. We consulted with Joshua Forstenzer, the Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in the Public Benefit of Higher Education at the University of Sheffield, who had just completed a very useful (and philosophical) response (available here), and with Jenny Saul from the Society for Women in Philosophy (the SWIP UK response is here), and submitted a BPA response, which you can read here

Response to OfQual consultation: GCE AS and A Level Philosophy

In October 2015, OfQual had an open consultation about changes to the Subject Content statement and the methods of assessment for GCE Philosophy. The BPA enouraged all of our members to send responses, and to let us know about what they thought needed special attention. We received a lot of replies and submitted this response to OfQual. We have since learned that OfQual were impressed with the way the philosophical community were able to make such a helpful and active engagement with their proposed changes. They’ve since been in touch with the BPA to discuss ways in which the proposed changes can be implemented.

Heythrop College Closure

Heythrop College’s governing body made a decision to close the college (details here). The BPA and many heads of departments have written an open letter to protest against the closure and to ask the governing body to revise their decision:

The governors of Heythrop College announced on Friday 26 June that the College in its current form, as a constituent college of the University of London specialising in philosophy and theology, is to come to an end. In justifying this closure, the governing body referred to the cost of compliance not the cost of teaching, which implies that there are externally imposed bureaucratic requirements, and that this is what has made this small college unviable. Anyone who has worked in higher education over the past decades knows how difficult it is for a small institution to survive financially in the current climate, that financial crises are a constant fact of life, but also that things can quickly improve. It would be a tragedy if this unique Jesuit college, with its centuries’ old history, were allowed to go under now, at the very time when it is making a really significant contribution to philosophical and theological research both nationally and internationally. For example, the College’s theology research, which incorporated submissions from philosophy, achieved excellent ratings in the latest government assessment, and its Centre for Philosophy of Religion obtained significant external funding for its research on religious understanding.

Heythrop provides an intellectual space where religious thought is brought into dialogue with philosophy in the context of academic scholarship and (through the College’s frequent open lectures and conferences) wider public debate. Its impact in exploring religious and spiritual values and in fostering the philosophical understanding of religion cannot be underestimated. It would be a real loss if it were allowed to disappear.

The letter was published in the Tablet (link) with a follow-up article. The cosignatories are:

Dr Alison Ainley, Principal Lecturer Philosophy, Anglia Ruskin University
Professor Maria Rosa Antognazza, Head of Department of Philosophy, King’s College London
Dr Sorin Baiasu, Philosophy Programme Director, Keele University
Dr Alex Barber, Head of Department of Philosophy, The Open University
Dr Bob Brecher, University of Brighton
Dr Mark Cain, Programme Lead for Philosophy and Religion, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, Oxford Brookes University
Dr Gideon Calder, Professor of Social Ethics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of South Wales
Prof Julian Dodd, Head of Philosophy, University of Manchester
Dr Meena Dhanda, Course Leader Philosophy, University of Wolverhampton
Dr Edward Harcourt, Chair, Philosophy Faculty Board, Oxford
Dr Fabian Freyenhagen, Philosophy, University of Essex
Dr Kath R. Jones. Senior lecturer in Philosophy, University of Greenwich,
Professor Fiona Macpherson, Head of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Glasgow
Prof Denis McManus, Head of Philosophy, University of Southampton
Prof Peter Milne, Philosophy, University of Stirling
Dr David Edward Rose, Subject Leader in Philosophy, Newcastle University
Prof Stella Sandford, Head of Department of Philosophy, Kingston University
Prof Jennifer Saul, Head of Department, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield
Dr Raj Sehgal, Programme Convenor for Philosophy, Theology & Religion, University of Roehampton
Dr Nicholas Shackel, Reader in Philosophy, University of Cardiff
Dr Jonathan Tallant, Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham
Prof Tim Thornton, Professor of Philosophy and Mental Health, University of Central Lancashire


APA / BPA Philosophy Journals Survey

The BPA and the American Philosophical Association have jointly conducted a survey of 43 philosophy journals to gather data on their submission and acceptance rates, review process, and the percentages of papers submitted and accepted that were written by women and members of minority ethnic groups from 2011 to 2013. You can find the results of the survey over here on the BPA site, or over here on the APA’s site.


BPA Head of Departments meeting with Alexander Bird, post-REF2014, & Alison Wood, AQA.

In January 2015, the BPA invited  Alexander Bird, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol, to meet with Heads of Departments of philosophy to discuss REF2014. Alexander was the chair of the Philosophy sub-panel on the REF. He gave a presentation which you can download here, and the Q&A/discussion is recorded in the minutes of the meeting which you can download here. The minutes include a summary of the other BPA business affecting philosophy departments around the UK, in particular: the recent developments in AQA’s A-level philosophy qualification, presented to the meeting by AQA’s Head of Curriculum and Assessment Practices, Alison Wood.


Call for Collaborators: Minorities and Philosophy, UK

In order to examine and address issues of participation faced by minority and underrepresented groups in academic philosophy (e.g. gender, race, native-language, sexual orientation, class, and disability minorities), a number of UK departments have recently started to build a UK network of chapters of MAP (www.mapforthegap.com).

With 24 active chapters to date, MAP (Minorities And Philosophy) is already a successful and widespread organization in the US and elsewhere. If you would like to have a MAP chapter at your own institution, this Call For Collaborators is for you. MAP chapters are generally run by graduate students (typically 3 or 4 per department), with some help from academic staff members; undergraduate participation is also encouraged.

At this stage MAP would be happy to hear especially from graduate students (groups or individuals) at UK Philosophy departments as well as from UK Philosophy academic staff who would like to coordinate graduate student interest in their institutions. Please contact Filippo Contesi (filippo.contesi@gmail.com).

28 July 14

BPPA 2014 - University of Leeds

For information on the British Postgraduate Philosophy Association Annual Conference 2014 please click on the following link: BPPA 2014. The conference will take place from Tuesday 9th September - Friday 12th September. 

09 July 14

BPA statement on the future of Philosophy A-level

For a statement from the BPA relating to recent proposed changes to the Philosophy A-level in the UK, please click on the following link: BPA statement.

Professor Gillian Howie

We are very sorry to report the death of Gillian Howie, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. Gill died on 26th March in Woolton, Liverpool, after a long struggle with illness.

Gill published widely, with particular research interests in feminist philosophy, and was co-ordinator of the interdisciplinary ‘New Thinking on Living with Dying Network’ at Liverpool. A recording of her lecture ‘How to Think about Death: Living with Dying’ can be found here.

Gill was a member of the BPA Executive Committee from 2009-2012, and of the BPA Women in Philosophy Committee. Her contributions to both were extremely valuable, and her conscientious work for the BPA much appreciated.

Gill’s funeral is on Wednesday 10th April at 1.30pm, at Springwood Crematorium Allerton, Springwood Ave, Garston, Liverpool L25 7UN.

03 Apr 13

BPA paper on GTA pay and conditions

A BPA paper with information and advice on Graduate Teaching Assistant pay and conditions can be found here.

21 Feb 13

Position Paper on Open Access

The BPA response to the Government’s proposals for open access publishing can be found here.

19 Feb 13

BPA Newsletter 2013

Click here for the 2013 BPA Newsletter.

30 Jul 12

Professor David Hamlyn

The BPA is saddened to announce the death of Professor David Hamlyn, who was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck Colege 1964-1988, and who served on the British Philosophical Association’s predecessor organisation the National Committee for Philosophy from 1986-1993. Professor Hamlyn sadly passed away on Sunday 15th July after a period of illness. He was aged 87.

Professor Hamlyn’s family are asking for donations in his name to the Mind Association (Registered Charity No. 269707), which supports and promotes research excellence in philosophy. Professor Hamlyn was Editor of the Mind Association’s quarterly journal Mind from 1972-1984.