There are THREE elected posts that are vacant on the Executive Committee of the British Philosophical Association at the end of academic year 2021-22.  We have TEN people who have come forward for consideration. Elected candidates will start their term of office in September 2022 and will be in post for a three year term of office, with the possibility of renewal for a further three year term.  The election will run through August 2022.  BPA members should receive an email from Choice Voting in order to cast their vote.  In the event of any problems, please contact: s.t.kirchin@kent.ac.uk

 

Candidates (alphabetical order)

 

Jennifer Corns (Glasgow)

 I am seeking to serve as an executive member of the BPA because I am passionate about teaching, research, and public engagement in philosophy and recognise all three of these central activities as worthy of support and promotion. When philosophers or their departments are vulnerable, e.g. through lack of resources or political agendas, they must be protected. I firmly believe that the practice of philosophy develops our capacities to reason and act accordingly in ways beneficial to individuals and society more broadly. As a female philosopher from a working-class background, I am dedicated to widening participation across perceived boundaries of gender and class. It would be a privilege to join others in working hard to support philosophers and represent their interests within and beyond the academy.

  

Paul Giladi (Manchester Metropolitan)

I wish to be on the BPA’s Executive Committee, as having the opportunity to help play a central role in collaboratively shaping the present and future work of the BPA, an important cultural institution in the UK, is something that greatly motivates me. Helping protect Philosophy in the UK, and, crucially, helping advance and promote Philosophy research and Philosophy education (at all levels) in the UK deeply resonates with me and is central to my self-reflection on my academic citizenship. Though I am still relatively ‘green’ in my academic career to date, I have already established an excellent professional standing in the international academic philosophy community across a range of philosophical disciplines – from analytic post-Kantian scholarship and discourses about naturalism to matters concerning epistemic injustice and contemporary recognition theory. I wish to now build on this solid platform, push myself further, and produce positively impactful work with colleagues on the BPA Executive Committee.

 

Tom Grimwood (Cumbria)

As a professional philosopher for the past 15 years I have worked to promote the discipline not just within traditional philosophy departments, but across a range of applied subjects such as social work, nursing and fine art. As well as publishing extensively on philosophical problems around interpretation and meaning, particularly in relation to the care professions, I also currently lead of a commissioned research and knowledge exchange centre (HASKE), and as the current Head of Graduate School at my institution I engage first-hand with the task of raising philosophical awareness in students. As such, at a time when the discipline continues to be under threat (particularly amongst post-92 Universities) I have a strong sense of the tangible benefits that philosophy brings to both broader academic provisions, to applied professions, and to social and cultural impact. I have been an advocate for the discipline, and my career path has made me highly aware of both the challenges and the opportunities philosophers face in today’s Higher Education landscape.

 

Michael Hauskeller (Liverpool)

I am concerned about the growing pressure on Departments and individual researchers to demonstrate the relevance of Philosophy as a discipline by focusing on “useful” research, which does not only mean Philosophy that has some relevance to our lives and the world we live in – which it should – but research that serves, or can be made to serve, partisan political, ideological, or economic interests. I’m also concerned about complementary pressures to not discuss certain topics and questions. This is not about free speech, but about our ability to do the intellectual work that is needed to make sure that we know what we are doing and why we are doing it. I am hoping that as a member of the BPA’s Executive Committee I will be able to help shield our discipline from those pressures and maintain and develop a philosophical culture that is worth having.

 

William Hunt

As a member of the BPA, I should like to be considered for election to the BPA Committee. This is primarily because of my interest and experience in philosophy in conjunction with my experience in education and commerce. The former began with a London Masters in the Philosophy of Education and a London Doctorate in the Philosophy of Religion. This led to the publication of two books and a peer-reviewed paper in the philosophy of religion – I am also a member of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion. The latter involved school teaching in my early career followed by the appointment as Principal of a London business school where I gained considerable internal committee experience. My commercial interest is as Chair of the Board of Directors of a development company – Fernfield Homes Ltd. Not being a ‘professional philosopher’ could be an advantage for an association that aspires to promote philosophy as intrinsically worthwhile. I would suggest that this, together with my commercial experience, would bring an advantageous perspective to the Committee should I be elected.

 

Martin O’Neill (York)

I am a professor of political philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of York, where I previously worked in the Department of Politics for a number of years. I therefore have long experience of being a philosopher outside of a Philosophy department, and am especially interested in the interests of philosophers who may work in departments of Politics, Education, Law, History, or other disciplines. Other interests include the role of Philosophy in contributing to public debate and discussion (including but not limited to the broader ‘impact’ of Philosophy in the REF sense), together with the question of what we can do as a discipline to get a wider audience for philosophical ideas, and the place of philosophy in the education system outside our universities. If appointed to the BPA Executive Committee, I would look forward to working with colleagues to advance the collective interest of the discipline in these various dimensions.

 

Jon Pike (Open)

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University

I would like to stand for the BPA committee to ensure that it does its job.    The BPA is supposed to “promote the study of Philosophy within higher and secondary education and in the wider community, and assist professional philosophers in their teaching, scholarship and research.”

But it has not done this: instead it has stood mute whilst a senior and widely respected professor, Kathleen Stock, was bullied and harassed out of her job at Sussex University.  Whatever you think of Stock’s  views, the moves against her were anti-philosophical, anti-academic and illiberal.  It was a vicious campaign against one of our colleagues, yet the BPA was silent and irrelevant.

This must not be repeated, and I seek election to the committee to end this abject stance.

 

Mark Sinclair (Roehampton)

I am standing as a candidate for membership of the Executive Committee of the British Philosophical Association, as I would like to continue my work in national philosophical societies and to represent philosophy on a national level. The BPA plays a crucial role in defending and advancing philosophy, and I believe I can help it to do so.

I have recently completed ten years (two terms) as a member of the Management Committee of the British Society for the History of Philosophy. My work at the BSHP included the organisation of conferences (I organised the annual BSHP conference at the University of York in 2013), the selection of successful applications for conference and research funding, and, in the last academic year, the organisation of the graduate student essay prize.

I can bring this experience, as well as my experience of leadership of philosophy programmes at the University of Roehampton, to the BPA. I would be committed to contributing to the full range of its activities and to promoting philosophy in the UK at a time when the humanities in general, and philosophy in particular, are facing a variety of pressures.

 

Edgar Ter Danielyan

For as long as I can remember I had a ‘philosophical’ bent, asking difficult questions and questioning assumptions, but it was in 2011 that I decided to study philosophy formally – I went on to graduate with a first from Heythrop and did a research master’s at Buckingham while raising a family and working full time.  Although I have published a couple of small papers and delivered a talk at Oxford that is not why I am putting forward my nomination. It is not an exaggeration to say that philosophy made a huge difference to the way I see the world, and without any doubt I am a richer man for having studied and engaged in philosophy. I disagree with Wittgenstein’s dictum that philosophy leaves everything as it is; it changes those who engage in philosophy, it makes them richer and dare I say changes them for better. My main occupation is and has been in computer science for 25 years, I am a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society and run a small specialist consultancy, but I also tutor A Level Philosophy and hope to pursue a PhD eventually, family and business commitments allowing. In the meantime I’d love to contribute to the task of bringing philosophy into the wider world, from classrooms, to the public square, to the business world. I believe BPA is ideally situated to do that and we should grasp the opportunity.

 

Heather Widdows (Birmingham; moving to Warwick Autumn 2022)

I would like to be considered for appointment to the BPA executive. I am deeply passionate about the importance of philosophy; as an academic discipline; as a distinctive voice in the most pressing debates of our time; and as a way to change what human beings can think and/or do. To quote Iris Murdoch, “I can only choose within the world I can see” and philosophy shapes the world that we can see. The value of philosophy – for those who study it, and for its wider contribution to politics, society and culture – is not well understood by the public and policy-makers. The BPA has a key role to play to ensure that philosophy flourishes across the UK, and is valued by the academic community and society more broadly. I would like to bring my experience from University leadership, from working with policy makers and funding bodies, and from serving on the Philosophy REF sub-panel in 2014 and 2021 to the BPA executive and to the discipline. Philosophy has been a core discipline for hundreds of years. At this particularly political moment we need to ensure that it will be a core discipline in a 100 years’ time.

 

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).

On Weds 17th June 2020, the British Philosophical Association and other subject associations wrote to UK government ministers calling for significant changes in the way that higher education is funded and supported. As UK higher education institutions reportedly fall in the global rankings, forty-nine professional associations representing diverse academic research fields and thousands of UK-based academics are calling for “a new deal for higher education.”

The letter points out that the sharp drop in universities’ income, as a result of a fall in student numbers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, will endanger the ability of the UK Higher Education sector to maintain excellence in education and research, with grave consequences for the economy and society. UK public spending on higher education is the lowest among OECD countries, and comprises less than half of the average spending among the OECD’s other 34 countries, making UK universities particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in income from student numbers. Even before the pandemic nearly 25 percent of all UK universities were in deficit and this number will grow. In response, universities are announcing job cuts and even cuts to the range of courses and subjects being offered.

Dr Nicola Pratt, Vice President of British Society of Middle Eastern Studies, who helped organise the letter, said:

“Universities have a key role to play in developing innovative research, and providing each new generation with cultural knowledge as well as cutting edge skills and expertise. Indeed, higher education improves the life chances of individuals, enhances social mobility and is also a major employer in many parts of the country. Now more than ever we need to substantially increase public spending on universities, we need a new deal for higher education.”

You can read the full text of the letter here:  Open letter to Ministers of Education: A New Deal For Higher Education.

The British Philosophical Association has today written to the Minister of State for Universities and the Secretary of State for Education to draw attention to the many important contributions made by philosophers at UK institutions during the pandemic so far.

Professor Fiona Macpherson,  President of the BPA, wrote to government ministers to describe many of the ways that professional philosophers have been involved in discussions and policy making with regards to COVID-19. The contributions made by UK philosophers are being collected in a growing repository on the BPA’s website here. In her letter, Prof Macpherson also offered the government the BPA’s varied professional expertise to assist with understanding and responding to the challenges ahead of us.

The letter was sent to Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities, and Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, as well as their opposite numbers in the Shadow cabinet: Emma Hardy MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities, and Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Shadow Education Secretary.  Copies were sent to those members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords who work with philosophical organisations and champion philosophical activities, including Baroness Onora O’Neill, Lord Melvin Bragg, Lord David Blunkett, Lord John Alderdice, Lord David Willetts, Jesse Norman MP and Barry Gardiner MP. In addition, the letter was sent to Prof Harcourt, AHRC Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation, and Prof Thompson, Executive Chair of the AHRC, to ensure that the major Research Council for funding academic research in philosophy is aware of the breadth of work that philosophers are providing during this crisis.

 

The BPA are delighted to learn that the number of examination entries for the philosophy A-Level are projected to rise again this year. AQA, the exam board offering the UK’s only A level in Philosophy, has started the process of recruiting new examiners for the 2020 summer series and beyond.

Although some teaching experience is preferred, new examiners will now be considered so long as they have a degree in philosophy. Appropriate training will then be provided.

The role is especially suited to postgraduate students who may have some time to dedicate to the job, most days, over approximately four weeks. This provides the opportunity to earn some extra money in a condensed time period, while forging connections between the academy and schools in education and assessment.

All applications should be submitted through the AQA web-site, where philosophy is listed under the humanities section. Just click the following link:

http://www.aqa.org.uk/about-us/become-an-examiner-or-moderator/examiner-vacancies

If you have any questions or queries about what the job entails, feel free to contact the chief philosophy examiner, Dr. Jonathan Birch, at j.c.p.birch@gmail.com

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.

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