Snobbery along the binary line

October 25, 1996

AS HEAD of a philosophy department in a former polytechnic, where one philosophy programme was validated by Baroness Warnock in the days of the Council for National Academic Awards, I was intrigued to read (THES, October 18) her recent pronouncement that institutions like mine are unfit to teach the subject. In effect, she is saying we have been wasting our time, not to mention taxpayers' money.

In approving our course, Baroness Warnock underwrote the career aspirations of members of my department, so would she therefore acknowledge she owes us damages for having caused us to squander our working lives through licensing us to teaching the subject?

Or is it that rather than being wrong then and right now, the opposite is the case? Confirmation of this is the fact that one of our philosophy graduates is now a professor of philosophy and head of department of a philosophy department in a "real" British university where alone, Baroness Warnock now thinks, philosophy should be taught.

Then there are the dozens of other ex-graduates who have successfully completed research degrees in philosophy at older universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

In deploring the growth of philosophy in the former polytechnics, Baroness Warnock refers to the "inveterate snobbishness I that makes philosophy seem preferable to practical design or applied electronics".

Would that some ex-mistresses of Girton not appear to have been afflicted by this curse. Then those of us who for the past 20 years have struggled to teach the subject in the former polytechnics might have received support from our peers, rather than an ill-informed and insulting rubbishing.

David Conway Head of the school of philosophy and religious studies Middlesex University.

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