Open Letter to UWE Bristol about threatened Philosophy BA

The University of West of England Bristol (UWE) appears to have decided to cancel its successful BA Philosophy degree, without consultation and without any clear rationale. The programme, which is financially viable, popular with students, and scores very well in the NSS, is well known for promoting European philosophy. Its threatened closure is very mysterious.

The BPA wrote directly to the university on Friday 19th June inviting them to meet and discuss the programme – at the same time, many people in philosophy departments from around the UK wrote to UWE’s vice chancellor protesting the decision and asking for explanation. Today the BPA are sending this open letter, signed by the heads of philosophy departments at 50 universities and representatives of many philosophical learned societies, repeating our invitation for a meeting. You can read the letter here.

Prof. James Ladyman, a leading philosopher at the University of Bristol, has written a strident piece for the Council for Defence of British Universities’ website here in which he discusses UWE Bristol’s decision:

I work in the philosophy department at the University of Bristol, and according to the logic of the market we are rivals with our fellow philosophers at UWE. But academics think of our counterparts in other institutions as colleagues rather than adversaries…

Closing a financially viable, high-performing department teaching a subject that is popular with both employers and students, and which connects to almost every other subject, makes no sense.

Philosophy is the subject that most clearly undermines the lazy dichotomy between culture and science, because philosophers study the concepts, ethics and foundations of every domain from art to zoology from within, and many philosophers are also highly expert in the most relevant other disciplines

Do the powers that be fear that philosophy corrupts the young, or do they want to stop its incessant questioning and demand for answers?

Students at UWE Philosophy have launched a petition which expresses how they feel about the programme and its threatened closure, which can be found (and signed) here.

As Julian Baggini has pointed out on twitter, it is particularly strange given that the university continues to promote itself online by highlighting its philosophy programme’s excellent NSS and league-table scores (see UWE’s website here).

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