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Old 05.01.2010, 08:58 AM   #1
demonrail666
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The prospect of massive cuts in UK higher education are already taking affect, with news that the philosophy department at Middlesex University is to close, alongside similar closures planned for philosophy departments at Liverpool university and Kings College in London. These are being taken as the first wave of a far more dramatic programme of closures that'll affect arts and humanities departments across the UK.

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This won't be of direct interest to most, but should definitely serve as an ominous warning to anybody currently studying or working in arts or humanities departments in UK universities.
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Old 05.01.2010, 09:35 AM   #2
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:00 AM   #3
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I heard somewhere the other day that philosophy degrees are a pretty new invention (something like the last 100 years) which is to say that none of the great philosophers had philosophy degrees and the philosophy degree is of negligable importance to the history of philosophy
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:03 AM   #4
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It's been a less than a year since I first read Ray Brassier.
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:13 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
I heard somewhere the other day that philosophy degrees are a pretty new invention (something like the last 100 years) which is to say that none of the great philosophers had philosophy degrees and the philosophy degree is of negligable importance to the history of philosophy

Depends on what you mean be degree. An undergraduate qualification in pretty much anything isn't important. PhDs (and you'll note what the Ph stands for) makes quite some odds though.

You're right though, but you're talking about a time when degrees dealt with the liberal arts rather than single avenues - there's probably very few writers with English Lit degrees. Having said that, you've probably heard of Sartre, who studied philosophy.
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:20 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
I heard somewhere the other day that philosophy degrees are a pretty new invention (something like the last 100 years) which is to say that none of the great philosophers had philosophy degrees and the philosophy degree is of negligable importance to the history of philosophy
Karl Marx and Martin Luther, I believe, both had degrees in philosophy.
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:28 AM   #7
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Yeah, they would be in quite a worse position if they discontinued the doctorate in the subject. Curiously enough, though, I get the sense that the "Philosophy" in the PhD is under-appreciated.
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:40 AM   #8
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The point isn't about philosophy in particular but the way in which this recession is clearly being used as an opportunity by university administrators to cut the very kinds of non-vocational humanities/arts based departments that they've been reluctantly servicing for decades now. Universities are being told to cut costs but not the areas where the cuts have to be made. It's therefore their choice to put the squeeze on already woefully underfunded English lit, Philosophy, Music, History and Fine Art departments, while leaving more commercially viable, broadly science-based ones relatively untouched.
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Old 05.01.2010, 10:53 AM   #9
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Quite right but there's no greater example of this point in Middlesex saying that their philosophy department "made no 'measurable' contribution to the University" despite the subject being the highest rated by the RAE.

Evidently, Middlesex means something very specific in terms of measurable contributions and something more self-interested than its student body.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:10 AM   #10
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The RAE thing is being ignored by most universities as they increasingly focus on student numbers rather than the actual quality of teaching/research. At my uni, any department that can't guarantee 100 plus students per module is now vulnerable. I taught a course on Modernism last year which had fifteen students on it. It received excellent feedback from the students and produced some excellent coursework. However it's now been scrapped in favour of a new 'mega-module', focusing on employability - which none of the students I've spoken to say they want.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:11 AM   #11
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It's odd - they could measure tuition fees; they could measure the number of students putting money into the local economy; they could measure the books sales of the high number of very publishable philosophers there; they could measure the number of times Middlesex is advertised for free everytime it's mentioned in an article.

As Herr Rail says, it's not just a problem for philosophy, it's for the whole humanities. There's a very narrow perception of the benefits of university education. Bradders and I both have a degree in philosophy, and I think we'd both agree that it's not directly served us in the job market. However, I blagged my way into IT thanks to knowing Boolean logic; while there, I was known as a good peacemaker, thanks to analytic philosophy; I was known as a good and particular communicator, thanks to philosophy essays. The problem - and I suppose this runs deeper than just Universities - is that the merit of learning is measured only in terms of direct profit or explicit titles. I know a few people who are well out of their depth in the jobs they've got, thanks to their MBAs.

It's not that I object to 'profitability' being used as the prime marker of value in the economy; it's that that profitability is incredibly short-sighted.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:16 AM   #12
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The RAE thing is being ignored by most universities as they increasingly focus on student numbers rather than the actual quality of teaching/research. At my uni, any department that can't guarantee 100 plus students per module is now vulnerable. I taught a course on Modernism last year which had fifteen students on it. It received excellent feedback from the students and produced some excellent coursework but has now been scrapped in favour of a new 'mega-module', focusing on employability - which none of the students I've spoken say they want.

My undergraduate 'employability' lessons were laughable - derided by everyone concerned, but obligatory, and useless. In my course at the moment, there's one module which has a single student. MAs are a slightly different matter - they're much more profitable-per-student - but any class with more than 10 people in is an utter waste of time in educational terms. Universities needn't be exempt from market forces, but their prime focus should be on education. University of Bristol is currently axing something like 1 in 10 staff from humanities. Meanwhile, the administration is a sprawling wreck of disorganisation. You see this in banks, too - people holding the purse strings get rid of not that which is least efficient, but that which is least understood. Marketing departments are notorious for being money-haemorrhagers, but because there's a transparent in-out to the cashflow, they don't get job cuts. I'd bet Middlesex is keeping whatever Business qualifications it offers, regardless of their educational merit.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:19 AM   #13
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Bradders and I both have a degree in philosophy, and I think we'd both agree that it's not directly served us in the job market. However, I blagged my way into IT thanks to knowing Boolean logic; while there, I was known as a good peacemaker, thanks to analytic philosophy; I was known as a good and particular communicator, thanks to philosophy essays.

"As I look back on it now, it's obvious that studying history and philosophy was much better preparation for the stock market than, say, studying statistics. ... Logic is the subject that's helped me the most in picking stocks, if only because it taught me to identify the peculiar illogic of Wall Street."

- Peter Lynch, one of the most successful mutual fund managers. During his time as head of Fidelity's Magellan Fund [1977-1990]), the fund grew from a value of $18 million to $14 billion
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:23 AM   #14
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University of Bristol is currently axing something like 1 in 10 staff from humanities.

That's seriously scary.

Actually, you may be interested in attending this:
  • INVITATION TO THE THIRD ANNUAL PSS WORKSHOP: ONE-DIMENSIONAL UNIVERSITY: NEOLIBERALISM, POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE PRODUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE
  • Dear all,
  • I am writing with news of an an exciting open workshop on the relationship between University, knowledge and neoliberalism, to be held in the Department of Sociology (12 Woodland Road) on the 5 May from 2-6pm (followed by a drinks reception), here in the University of Bristol.
  • A fine panel of speakers, from a number of different disciplines, has been assembled to share their insights on contemporary developments taking place in the Higher Education landscape.
  • The speakers are:
  • Susan Robertson (Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol) 'The business of universities: four tendencies in the transformation of the higher education sector'
  • John Holmwood (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham) 'Disciplines, interdiciplinarity and the neo-liberal University'
  • Mark Fisher (Visiting Fellow at the Centre of Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths) 'Eliminating Business Ontology from the University'
  • Harriet Bradley (Department of Sociology, University of Bristol and Vice-president of the UCU at Bristol) 'What is to be done: unions, collectivism and resistance to neoliberalism'
  • Each of the speakers will provide a short talk on the subject from their own perspective. We hope that these talks will then provide a basis for a broad discussion about the content and the political implications of the ongoing changes as well as the possibilities of response and action. The event is open to all students and members of academic and support staff and we very much hope that you will be able to join the discussion on Wednesday 5th May.
  • Best wishes,
  • The Philosophy of Social Science Study Group
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:31 AM   #15
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I would've been there with bells on, but I'm in essay world at the moment. As you can see, because I'm on SYG.
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Old 05.01.2010, 11:40 AM   #16
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i think the world would probably be a better place if philosophy was taught as a compulsory subject in secondary schools.

anyway, i kind of wonder if this is going to be the beginning of a trend of universities closing departments and could hopefully lead to the massive overhaul of the university system that is needed in the UK. Probably it won't, but you can still hope.

Not that I'm hoping that humanities departments will be closed, but that our University system is crap and needs to be completely done over.
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Old 05.01.2010, 12:20 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Toilet & Bowels
i kind of wonder if this is going to be the beginning of a trend of universities closing departments and could hopefully lead to the massive overhaul of the university system that is needed in the UK.

I absolutely agree that the university system in the uk is in need of an enormous overhaul. I just fear that the overhaul it's going to receive is likely to make things a helluva lot worse than they already are.
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Old 05.01.2010, 02:47 PM   #18
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Well this is extremely depressing. So instead of universities being centres of education they're becoming centres of training.

demonrail and Bowels, what specifically do you think we need an overhaul of the university system for? I have got a lot of complaints about how my degree is taught...
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Old 05.01.2010, 03:04 PM   #19
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demonrail and Bowels, what specifically do you think we need an overhaul of the university system for? I have got a lot of complaints about how my degree is taught...

The first thing for me would be to return former polytechnics to their previous status. It's ridiculous that 'officially', a degree gained at Thames Valley or its equivalent is considered equal to one gained at somewhere like Cambridge. They should abolish tuition fees and return to the old grant system, which would lower the amount of students doing degrees to a more manageable level. The whole drive to get 50% of the population into higher education has been a disaster, with far too many school-leavers being pushed into universities regardless of how useful a degree would be to them, or how suited they are to actually doing a degree in the first place. There's something deeply immoral about universities happily taking tuition fees off of students it's clear aren't able to cope with the subject they're meant to be studying.

Those factors don't account for all the problems but I reckon they're the root cause of 90% of them.
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Old 05.01.2010, 03:13 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by demonrail666
The first thing for me would be to return former polytechnics to their previous status. It's ridiculous that 'officially', a degree gained at Thames Valley or its equivalent is considered equal to one gained at somewhere like Cambridge.

Not sure if I agree with that...sounds reasonable though. Would help protect the prestige of the good unis, and prevent homogenisation.

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Originally Posted by demonrail666
They should abolish tuition fees and return to the old grant system, which would lower the amount of students doing degrees to a more manageable level. The whole drive to get 50% of the population into higher education has been a disaster, with far too many school-leavers being pushed into universities regardless of how useful a degree would be to them, or how suited they are to actually doing a degree in the first place. There's something deeply immoral about universities happily taking tuition fees off of students it's clear aren't able to cope with the subject they're meant to be studying.
I agree with this. It's good to educate and create a more sophisticated population thus improving democracy but it's gone too far. I can't believe how many complete morons are at my uni, and the department I'm studying in (despite it being fairly well rated in the rankings). In the Netherlands they have a system (or they did) in which it's free to go to uni but if you take longer to complete your degree because you failed modules, then you have to pay the fees. This would put off some of the dossers.
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