Patrice Riemens on Thu, 1 Jul 2010 12:57:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Middlesex philosophy moves to Kingston (university, not Jamaica ; -)

(but maybe they should have ;-)

Apparently the campaign to save Middlesex University's philosophy
department has been so succesful that one hears no more of it...

Well there has been a momentous development in which one ex-poly
(Kingston) is taking over the upper (post-graduate) tier of the written-of
department. The fate of the lower (under-graduate) tier is now in the hand
of Middlesex Uni which has promised to let students finish their course.
Reading the campaign website does not make one very confident about that

So Middlesex philosophy has been saved - or sortof. But seen from outside,
the whole episode looks like a caricature rather than the sole instance of
a future that, unfortunately, awaits quite a lot of department and
research institutes whose quality and popularity only tend to prove to
decision makers that they do not represent any 'measurable added value' to
their institution. PR lessons will undoubtedly be learned from Middlesex
bosses' clumsy and callous approach, but this kind of policies is here to
stay. Time may be to reconsider the university as a (the?) unique font of
research and knowledge...

More news on:

Announcement (8 June): The CRMEP is moving to Kingston University
Posted on 8 June 2010 by aletheiaticverse

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The campaign to save our philosophy programmes has just won a partial but
significant victory: Kingston University in south-west London announced
today that it will re-establish our Centre for Research in Modern European
Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston, by employing the four senior staff in
Philosophy at Middlesex (Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and
Stella Sandford). Our MA and PhD programmes (full-time and part-time) will
be re-launched at Kingston this September, and all current post-graduate
students will be invited to move along with the staff. Institutions in
France and Germany have also made significant new proposals for
collaboration with the CRMEP, which may allow it to expand the European
dimensions of its work considerably in the near future.

This remarkable turn of events would never been possible without the
extraordinary local and international campaign that began six weeks ago,
to save our philosophy programmes.

Like Middlesex, Kingston is a post-1992 university, with a commitment to
widening participation in education. Unlike Middlesex, Kingston is
expanding rather than cutting back its provision in humanities subjects,
and it is investing in research in these areas. In addition to taking on
CRMEP staff, Kingston will be making a number of other high-level
appointments over the coming months, and is launching its own London
Graduate School in conjunction with colleagues from several other
Universities internationally.  We believe that Kingston will provide an
enthusiastic and supportive base for the activities of the CRMEP.

Although we have not won all the demands made by our campaign, the move to
Kingston is a major achievement. We have found a way to keep all of our
postgraduate programmes open, and to keep most of the CRMEP staff together
in a single unit. We have preserved a place in London for the unique
academic community that has built up around the Centre and its distinctive
research interests, and this will continue to be a place where the
criteria for entry and participation remain as open as possible. The
campaign has directly refuted the line that Middlesex managers have
repeated for many years now ? a variation of the line that ?there is no
alternative? but to follow the neoliberal way of the world, and to close
down small academic departments in favour of large vocational ones. The
campaign hasn?t merely proved that ?another way is possible?: it has
helped to indicate what needs to be done to make such a way a reality, and
shown that there are universities in the UK and in Europe that are willing
to embrace it.

We hope that the campaign will continue, evolving to become one of several
contributions from a range of institutions across London and the region to
a broader and deeper struggle in support of philosophy, the humanities and
public education more generally. Some of the protestors who made the
biggest impact in our campaign came from supportive universities such as
Sussex, KCL, SOAS, Westminster and Goldsmiths. This emerging network of
education activists isn?t going to disperse, and is likely to play an
important role in the struggles that will soon affect the entire sector.
Although the closure of Philosophy at Middlesex is yet another indication
of the ongoing commercialisation of education in the UK, our campaign,
along with other recent mobilisations at universities up and down the
country, has helped change the balance of power across higher education.
The campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex has already made a powerful
intervention in the fight for public education in general and for
endangered humanities programmes in particular. The future looks
challenging but there is now much to build on, at Middlesex, at Kingston
and across the UK.

Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford

*  *  *  *  *

The decision to leave Middlesex University was very difficult. Recently it
became clear that some of the steps taken by Middlesex management to shut
down Philosophy would be irreversible in the short term. Management have
already written to all our current undergraduate applicants, informing
them that our BA programme is closed. No new PhD applicants have been able
to apply since early March. Belying some apparent suggestions of
last-minute compromise from his deputies, on Friday 28 May Middlesex
Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll reiterated his determination to end
Philosophy recruitment and to phase out all Philosophy teaching.
Management ignored a UCU motion calling for staff suspensions to be lifted
by noon on Wednesday 2 June, and we know that effective UCU action to
oppose the closure and suspensions will now take several months to
prepare. The national political context is also significant. A first round
of severe cuts to the Higher Education budget will be announced on 22
June, with more drastic measures to follow in the autumn. Given the
financial pressures that will soon apply to every university in the
country, if the door is shut at Middlesex then the time for a group move
may be now or never. If programmes are to be validated and new students
admitted in good time for the start of the new academic year in September
then we need begin the transition immediately.

We are acutely aware of the fact that such a move is only an incomplete
victory for the campaign. Despite relentless local and international
pressure the central demand of the campaign, to save philosophy at
Middlesex itself, has fallen on deaf ears. Vice-chancellor Michael
Driscoll and those managers who support his vision of a university purged
of critical thinking, research and humanities teaching have amply
demonstrated their contempt for the passionately argued priorities of
their own students, and for the academic judgement of many highly
respected scholars in and around our field, in the UK and the world over.

Kingston University, meanwhile, doesn?t yet have an undergraduate
programme in Philosophy, and in order to make this move possible it will
have to provide a substantial sum of transitional funding, through to the
end of the current research funding cycle (i.e. for a minimum of three
years). Given these constraints, Kingston is only able to take four of the
six members of staff in Philosophy at Middlesex. We very much regret that
we haven?t managed to find a secure base for the CRMEP that includes all
Middlesex Philosophy programmes and staff. We hope that Middlesex will now
honour its commitment to teach out its under-graduate programmes and that
it will retain our colleagues Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly (if they
so choose) to teach them. In the longer term, we hope that Middlesex will
offer to retain Christian and Mark to teach philosophy courses for
programmes in other areas. In addition to providing a place for current
Middlesex undergraduates to pursue an eventual MA or PhD, we hope that
Kingston will launch its own undergraduate provision in due course,
enabling new appointments in Philosophy.

We know that in leaving Middlesex we are leaving many courageous and
embattled colleagues who have supported the campaign and whose own
programmes remain vulnerable. We know as well that several of the most
urgent issues of the campaign remain unresolved: students and staff are
still suspended, our undergraduate programme is slated for termination,
the situation of our current undergraduate students is uncertain, the
criteria for further ?sustainability? decisions remain unclear, and the
future of humanities provision is as precarious as ever. Middlesex
managers have not changed their position and the union remains in dispute
over the staff suspensions and the way in which closure decisions are
taken. The mobilisation of Middlesex staff in and beyond our UCU branch is
proof of their readiness to fight not only for a radical transformation of
these procedures but also for the general principles that have animated
this campaign: the defence of universal access to education and the
opportunity to pursue independent critical thinking; the defence of
teaching and research in terms that challenge the prevailing divisive and
hierarchical criteria used to assess ?performance? and ?excellence?; the
defence of academic freedom and the right to protest; the defence of
collective action by students and staff alike.

We will continue to do everything we can to support our colleagues and our
suspended students, and to resist any further intimidation of campaign
activists. Christian Kerslake, Peter Osborne, and Peter Hallward have
suspension hearings scheduled for this coming week, and we will fight not
just to overturn these suspensions but to discourage any future use of
such punitive and inappropriate sanctions in the face of peaceful protest
and dissent.

Today our campaign enters into a new phase. It has succeeded in showing
that there is indeed an alternative to the narrow corporate priorities
championed by Middlesex managers, and that in closing their Philosophy
programmes and then persecuting their students and staff, Middlesex
management have violated their own procedures, damaged the reputation of
the University and lost the confidence of many students and members of
academic staff. These students and members of staff will no longer
tolerate management incompetence, bullying and unaccountability. Middlesex
can no longer be managed in the same old way. As it changes to become part
of the broader struggle for public education, our campaign will continue
to emphasise collective action and direct confrontation with the forces
that are driving the neoliberal assault on our education system.

One phase of this campaign is over; the struggle continues.

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