Philosophy at Kent Threatened (again) (updated)

Imagine a major university financially mismanaged to such a degree that its administration is desperate enough to suggest cutting its philosophy program as a solution.

That we’ve seen cases of this happening before may dull us to how bizarre it sounds, but I think it’s a good idea to try to recapture its strangeness, especially given the centrality of philosophy to the mission of a university, and how relatively little it costs to keep a philosophy program running.

KentOnline reports that the administration at the University of Kent has proposed cutting philosophy and eight other programs, and laying off 58 faculty and staff, as a way to address “financial problems”:

The university is facing a series of major problems at the same time including a drop in foreign students applying since Brexit and its ranking fall by 26 places over the last eight years, according to the Complete University Guide. Added to this, bosses have battled to manage finances—constructing buildings in Medway they’re now moving out of—while income from capped tuition fees has fallen due to inflationary pressures and dwindling applications. KentOnline also understands plans involving the university to transform a former police station into a multi-million-pound creative hub are being looked at.

Philosophy at Kent was threatened last summer, when the administration revealed that its earlier commitment to not pursue forced layoffs (compulsory redundancies), made to avert a faculty strike, was a lie.

Discussing the cuts on X/Twitter, philosophy professor Jon Williamson writes:

We perform well on all measures, including student recruitment. But smaller subjects have less clout and are easiest to cut. Help us shout out our value to the uni!…

We are being cut to fund the expansion of subjects that attract more international students. But it’s not too late to save us.

He recommends that those interested in speaking up on behalf of the philosophy program at Kent get in touch with vice-chancellor Karen Cox, whose email is [email protected].

(via Jonathan Birch)

UPDATE (2/8/24): A petition in support of philosophy and other threatened fields at Kent can be signed here.

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4 months ago

The Philosophy Department at Kent is financially viable. It is home to some stellar researchers, with an impressive track record. What kind of message is this sending to the rest of the University?

Reply to  Julien
4 months ago

Most UK universities are not currently “financially viable.” It would be surprising if a humanities department at a middling UK university were viable, given then fee model. What’s the evidence for this claim?

Reply to  Phil
4 months ago

This is what Jon Williamson was saying on X.