Laurie Taylor Column

April 11, 2003

" The renaming of courses for marketing reasons, especially when the names do not reflect the content of the course, is not helpful " - Jill Johnson of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, THES , April 4.

May we now turn to item six: Re-branding the degree. As everyone here in the philosophy department will recognise, we continue to face a severe student recruitment crisis. In the past, we have tried to ameliorate this problem by making some subtle changes in our undergraduate course title.

Back in 1992, we abandoned the rather austere "Philosophy" in favour of the more expansive "Philosophy: ancient and modern". And then in 1994, we endeavoured to keep pace with contemporary trends by enlarging this to "Philosophy: ancient, modern and postmodern".

This did lead to a slight increase in applications, but this had disappeared by 1998, when we opted for the more welcoming title "Philosophy for all".

You may also remember that, at that time, we attempted to reinforce the populist tone of our degree by using musical nomenclature for some individual courses. One recalls "Kant buy me love", "Hegel, don't bother me" and "Freddie Ayer on a G-string".

Unfortunately, the latest figures suggest that we need to consider a further rebranding. As you will see from the paper attached to your agenda, there are three main proposals for a new degree title: "Philosophy can change your life", "Philosophy can be fun" and "Big thoughts about big things". Perhaps we could now move straight to the vote.

Yes, Dr Doe.

I'm sorry to bother you, Professor Strabismus, but isn't there a danger that these constant title changes might give the impression that this department suffers from a dangerous degree of intellectual volatility?

Thank you, Dr Doe. That point has indeed been raised in previous discussions of rebranding, but I think we have taken considerable comfort from the knowledge that despite the changes in degree title, all members of staff have continued to use the lecture notes that served them so well when we were merely "Philosophy".

Now, might we have a show of hands for "Philosophy can change your life"?

Thank you.

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