Keele’s philosophers stare into the abyss

Keele University is planning to shut down its philosophy department, a move critics describe as an “emblematic loss” that would damage the institution’s credibility.

March 18, 2011

Keele has judged that the department, which teaches about 200 undergraduates, should be wound down without further admissions as part of a drive to save £6.5 million in staff costs over two years.

The university also plans to close its Centre for Professional Ethics, which employs eight academics.

Critics argue that the university has “inflated” the philosophy department’s costs by overstating the number of scholars it employs.

Keele’s management puts the total at six but opponents claim the real figure is three, adding that the university’s tally includes one lecturer who has not taught since 2007-08 and who has previously applied for voluntary redundancy.

University managers will present the closure plans at an extraordinary senate meeting on 23 March, when there is likely to be opposition from staff, unions and students.

The final decision will be taken by the university council on 7 April.

Joe Andrew, professor of literature and culture at Keele and executive officer for the institution’s University and College Union branch, said the plans undermined Keele’s heritage as a “humanities-centred university”.

Philosophy had been taught at Keele since its foundation as a university college in 1949, he added.

“To lose philosophy, quite apart from the impact on the members of staff concerned, would be an emblematic loss for the university in terms of its traditions,” Professor Andrew said.

A university spokesman said: “Closure of discipline areas is a very serious and painful step for any university to contemplate, and Keele is no exception; but in the circumstances it is not possible to achieve the necessary improvements to the university’s financial position without taking difficult decisions of this kind.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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