Christian Kerslake comments

Some facts appear to be necessary for some aspects of this discussion to continue.

1. Mark Kelly and I both found out about the move to Kingston on the same day as everybody else, and we were not consulted about it at any point.

2. The campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex was explicitly founded not just on the demand for recognition of excellence in research, but also on the department’s historical commitment to widening participation in philosophy education and providing the opportunity to study philosophy at all levels for all people. The rationale given for the Kingston move silently drops all reference to the second basis of the campaign – Philosophy for All. (I think this is probably the real reason for the discomfort around the move).

3. The Kingston move subtracts the Middlesex campaign from the recent narrative of cuts and successful fight-backs in the higher education sector. Philosophy and theory departments at Liverpool, KCL, and recently Goldsmiths (among others), have succeeded in overturning proposed cuts and closures. They fought and remained. In the Middlesex case, the four ‘senior’ members chose to leave the department and take the postgraduate programme to another institution.

4. The by-product of the campaign is a new graduate school for philosophy. The Kingston move sunders the link between the undergraduate and postgraduate levels of philosophy education. The problem is that undergraduate philosophy programmes are the foundation stone on which philosophy departments are built. The undergraduate programme is where the primary and most direct encounter with philosophical ideas takes place. Postgraduate programmes are built on the assumption that knowledge has already been acquired. By making the move to Kingston, the CRMEP is opting to relinquish control of the introductory paths into philosophy that form the basis for philosophy education at undergraduate level. It will have to rely on other institutions to provide this function, and it will have to court the dangers of generating an elite, exclusive ‘postgraduate’ discourse, detached from the real experience and thought of working people. I would not have moved to Kingston even if the opportunity had arisen, because I think the last thing London needs is another postgraduate institution. Encouraging the production of exclusive postgraduate institutions in the current economic climate will help to reinforce class division, shutting those who don’t have money out of the higher education system.

5. I’ve stated the above facts and points in order to help further discussion about what went right and what went wrong in the Middlesex case, a discussion that may prove useful for future struggles against cuts in education. However, despite disagreeing with the logic of the Kingston move, I have no desire to foster any conflict about it. I hope that Middlesex and Kingston will be able to retain strong links, and that members of the Kingston CRMEP will come to Middlesex this Autumn to participate in a new seminar series we hope to establish. Mark Kelly and I are currently negotiating with the management to secure the conditions for the best possible experience for the philosophy undergraduate students. The best aspects of the protest and campaign – the collective processes of deliberation, the free circulation of ideas in real time, the measured acts performed out of principle, and the resolve to put ideas into practice – will remain an inspiration for students and staff at Middlesex, and we must hope that they will galvanize a general struggle to defend humanities subjects across the university and beyond.

Christian Kerslake

This is (currently) the most recent comment in a fairly charged debate, which can be found here. Peter Hallward weighed in earlier, but Christian’s thoughts are pretty damning.

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