Hundreds sign petition to save philosophy at Greenwich

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for philosophy to be saved at the University of Greenwich.

Greenwich has decided not to recruit students to its single honours philosophy BA in 2011-12.

According to the online petition, managers at the university are recommending that the BA is closed down permanently. However, the university said that no decision had yet been made about the future of the programme.

The British Philosophical Association has written to the university in protest. In a letter sent on behalf of a group of 44 philosophers, including 26 heads of department, Helen Beebee, director of the association, urges the university to reconsider.

“Philosophy has been taught in universities for over 900 years. It addresses questions that continue to be central to our understanding of the world and our place within it. The core aim of any self-respecting university should be the pursuit of knowledge; but philosophy is unique in addressing the question of what knowledge itself is,” the letter says.

Arguing that the subject should be available as widely as possible, Professor Beebee continues: “The new universities – including Greenwich – play a vital role in this. They have broad access to parts of the community where the appeal of the ‘old’ universities is very limited; moreover, philosophy is a subject that can be studied from a wide variety of educational backgrounds.”

A Facebook group called “Save Philosophy at Greenwich” has attracted more than 500 members and a protest is planned to be held in Greenwich on 9 April.

The efforts follow a successful campaign against Keele University’s plans to close its philosophy programme and ethics unit.

Staff, students and the wider academic community mounted a defence and the management at Keele, which was founded by philosopher A.D. Lindsay in 1949, changed tack just days after unveiling the closure plans.

In a statement, Greenwich says: “It is not true that we are to stop teaching philosophy. Philosophy makes a valuable contribution to broad-based teaching in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and we anticipate that it will continue to do so.

“It is usual within universities for the range of subject provision to be reviewed from time to time. As part of this, a decision has been taken not to recruit to single honours philosophy in 2011-12. However, discussions are ongoing and a final decision about the future of the programme has not yet been taken. Irrespective of this decision, there is no question that combined honours philosophy courses will continue to be offered, and that students from other disciplines will still be able to choose philosophy electives.”

In a statement, the Greenwich branch of the University and College Union says: "Management has not presented any objective argument for this decision, and staff were not involved in the discussions at all. This style of management is questionable.

“The philosophy degree has been popular among students, received excellent reports at its last validation, and recruitment on the programme has tripled last year, while applications for this year are higher still.

“The UCU branch demands a comprehensive review of the information relating to the closure of this and other degrees in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.”

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