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.

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