Leading academics have urged the University of Hull to commit to continuing to teach philosophy, as the discipline’s future at the institution remains under review.
Hull has said that it is reviewing the future of its undergraduate philosophy courses and plans to stop recruiting to programmes that it considers to be unsustainable.
But, in an open letter, the current and incoming presidents of the British Philosophical Association and representatives of 40 philosophy departments across the UK call on the university to “instigate a full-scale and wide-ranging review of the university’s recent commitments to its philosophy programme, in order to gain a thorough and well-evidenced understanding of the current situation, how it has come about, [and] the subject’s future at Hull”.
The letter highlights that philosophy has been taught at Hull since the university’s inception in 1928 and that the department “continues to be a key contributor to philosophical research in the UK and internationally”.
The letter claims that the financial case for closing the courses “has not been rigorously made, and that the proposal is being made on the basis of claims about the value and potential of studying a philosophy degree that have not been fully discussed with – and are disputed by – the philosophy department at Hull and by the BPA and other national and international bodies”.
Similar concerns have been expressed about Hull’s plans to suspend recruitment to modern-language programmes other than Chinese studies.
Charles Forsdick, James Barrow professor of French at the University of Liverpool, found it “worrying” that there would no longer be any “specialist language provision in East Yorkshire” – something that “has to be read also in a national context where the lack of strategic intervention at government level in subject provision could create modern-language ‘deserts’ in higher education”.
“This potential further contraction of modern languages in the current political context is deeply alarming and short-sighted,” Professor Forsdick said. “It is also telling that some universities do not see a contradiction between a commitment to internationalisation – ‘international’ and ‘internationally’ appear over 40 times in Hull’s current strategic plan – and this evidence of creeping institutional monolingualism.”
A Hull spokeswoman said that the reviews were “ongoing and no decision has been made to close either area”.
Yet in both subjects, the spokeswoman continued, “a fall in students choosing our programmes” had made it “unsustainable for the university to deliver [them] in their current format. We will continue to recruit to philosophy programmes that are attracting a viable number of students, and suspend those for September 2019 entry that are not.”