Policy and Strategy – draft

The BPA participates in consultations about issues affecting philosophy in the UK and issues policy papers on topics of interest or concern. It also writes open letters in support of departments under threat. Concerned departments can contact us.


REF 2021 Panel meeting with Heads of Departments of Philosophy

On September 13th, 2018, the BPA hosted a meeting at Bush House, King’s College London, between Heads  / Research Directors of philosophy departments and appointed members of the REF 2021 sub-panel. The BPA wanted to ensure that colleagues in philosophy had an opportunity to discuss and comment on the draft versions of the REF 2021 Guidance on Submissions and Panel Criteria and Working Methods.

Bob Stern, Heather Widdows (then-Birmingham) and Bill Childs (Oxford), as members of the philosophy-sub panel, were present to take questions from 20 representatives of philosophy departments around the UK.

AHRC Future Priorities Consultation

The Arts and Humanities Research Council contacted the BPA to ask us to take part in a consultation aimed at building on UKRI’s Strategic Prospectus. The AHRC will use this consultation to create Strategic Delivery Plan for the next 5-7 years. The Executive Committee of the BPA submitted the following response.

  • BPA response to  consultation on AHRC Strategic Delivery.

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

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Innovation 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), 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, and with Jenny Saul from the Society for Women in Philosophy-UK (the SWIP UK response is here), and submitted a BPA response.

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.

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

In January 2015, the BPA invited  Alexander Bird, then-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. 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.

Position Papers

Graduate Teaching Assistant pay and conditions

A 2013 BPA paper with information and advice on Graduate Teaching Assistant pay and conditions.


The BPA have produced a statement about the role of metrics (citation-counts, journal-rankings etc.) in making judgements about the quality of philosophical work. This was in response to HEFCE’s call for evidence about metrics, as part of their ongoing review. You can read the statement here.

Open Access

The BPA responded to HEFCE’s consultation process and produced its own position paper on the issue. The latter provided information about the Government’s proposals, stated the BPA’s views on and criticisms of various aspects of the policy, and suggested ways in which philosophers might respond so as to protect and promote philosophy publishing.

BPA 2014 statement on the future of Philosophy A-level

The BPA’s 2014 statement relating to recent proposed changes to the Philosophy A-level in the UK.

REF and Impact

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the latest exercise for assessing research quality in the UK. Information about the REF, including assessment criteria, level definitions, and panel membership lists, can be found here.

There was a discussion of the REF at the BPA Heads of Department meeting in September 2012. Notes from this meeting can be accessed here.

The BPA’s position paper (November 2009) on the assessment of impact in the REF. Our July 2010 letter to David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, and his reply is here. We also wrote to the British Academy (June 2010).

Some other relevant resources:

  • Results of the HEFCE Impact Pilot Exercise. This website includes feedback from the pilot panels and the institutions taking part, as well as the case studies submitted (the information on English Language and Literature is probably the most relevant to Philosophy).


  • BPA Heads of Department meeting (November 2010): This included a presentation from HEFCE representatives and a discussion. The HEFCE presentation is here, and the notes from the meeting are here (see pp.2-3).

The UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills 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.


Women in Philosophy

The 2011 report ‘Women in Philosophy in the UK’ was produced by the Joint BPA/SWIP Committee for Women in Philosophy. In 2021 an updated report appeared on the underrepresentation of women in philosophy in the UK is available here. It presents data on and assesses the progress made since we produced our first report in 2011, and provides an overview of the many resources and initiatives that have appeared since the first report. Further resources, including pages related to the new BPA/SWIP Good Practice Guidelines.

Open Letters

Letters are organised chronologically, oldest to most recent:


Open Letter to Heythrop College (2015)

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 with a follow-up article.


Open Letter to St Mary’s University in support of Philosophy Programme (2017)

The BPA, the heads of philosophy departments, and many learned societies have today sent an open letter to St Mary’s University, Twickenham, urging them to retain their Philosophy programme. The BPA understand that the University’s management has been consulting about closing the Philosophy programme, a move which we think would run directly counter to the university’s publicly-stated mission.

You can read the letter here; please consider signing a student-group’s petition in support of St Mary’s philosophy programme here. A second petition has been started here, and this latter petition-site accepts signatures from people who have non-UK postcodes/zipcodes.


BPA and Heads of Department of Philosophy Open Letter to Hungary in support of CEU Budapest (2019)

The Hungarian Parliament are instigating legislation that would make it impossible for CEU to continue its present operations in Budapest (details are here). The BPA have sent a letter to the Hungarian Minister responsible for universities recommending that Parliament revise these plans. The letter was co-signed by 30 departments of philosophy from the UK and Ireland. You can read it 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. 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.

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.

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