Philosophy students at Middlesex University are today occupying a management building in a protest sparked by the decision to close their courses.
About 25 students are staging an occupation outside the office of Edward Esche, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, at the university’s Trent Park campus in north London.
They were scheduled to meet yesterday with Professor Esche and Margaret House, deputy vice-chancellor academic, to discuss Middlesex’s decision to phase out all undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in philosophy.
Critics of the decision say it will mean the closure of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), which was the university’s highest rated unit in the 2008 research assessment exercise.
The students say they arrived for the meeting only to find that it had been cancelled. They then occupied an executive meeting room in protest.
The police were notified of the situation, but they are reported to have said that there was no illegal trespass because those involved were Middlesex students. As a result, the protesters remained in the building overnight.
Professor Esche is reported to have told staff that the closure decision was “purely financial”. Critics argue that the CRMEP has made a sizeable contribution to the university through research income.
Johann Hoiby, a second-year undergraduate who is among the protesters, said: “We think it is completely unreasonable to say it’s financial. Right now, we’re ashamed of the dean. We think it’s an outrage that he hasn’t met with us to explain the situation…Our basic campaign is that we want to enter into negotiations that will lead to a reversal of the decision to close down. But for now, we’re here waiting for them.”
A member of staff at Middlesex said the protest had been peaceful and the students had taken care not to damage property.
In a statement, the university says that a crowd of about 30 people forced their way into the building yesterday, “assaulting three security officers in the process”.
It adds: “A number of protesters have stayed in place at Trent Park today. They are trespassing in a restricted area, but the university will ensure their welfare.”
The university attributed the cancellation of the meeting to confusion over a deadline for student coursework.
“Due to a coursework deadline, the decision was taken on Friday to postpone Tuesday’s meeting and all philosophy students were informed the same day by email.
“Although the deadline for the coursework was moved, the university was not officially informed of this. The dean and deputy vice-chancellor academic are very keen to meet with current students of philosophy at Middlesex and discuss any concerns and issues they may have. A new meeting date has been arranged for 14 May.”
- For more on the closure of philosophy courses at Middlesex, see Times Higher Education on 6 May.