So after an attempt to close down Philosophy at Middlesex and cut Philosophy at King’s College London, now the Philosophy Department in Keele is threatened with closure, together with Keele’s Centre for Professional Ethics. You can read all about it here. I really can’t help but wonder: “Who’s next?” We earlier reported here on plans to cut funding for the humanities and the social sciences at the EU-research spending level.
I think the tendencies are clear. If you are teaching/doing research in a field/discipline that can not easily show (quantitatively, please!) to policy makers & bureaucrats that you will make a significant positive contribute to economic growth, your very existence is at stake. Never mind that you’re opening up minds, teaching logic or the arts, passing on history to the next generations. Either someone on the market should be willing to pay for what you’re doing, or else you are at mercy of the benevolence of your government. The University as a public good? That’s an old fashioned idea from premodern times, obviously.
If you think I’m exaggerating, read the EU agenda on the modernization of the Universities, published by EU bureaucrats in 2006. I think what we’re witnessing now, is that this agenda has touched the lowests levels of execution, and that the financial crisis is seen as a great opportunity to push it through. A tiny bit of this ‘modernization agenda’, like the stress on international mobility of students and teachers, could be explained by the goals of creating multi-national understanding and hence contributing to peace. But the rest of that agenda regards the university primarily (perhaps solely?) as an instrument for the economy. We had better become more worried, and we had better started to create a counter-discourse to this narrow economistic paradigm then. What I see around me, and what I see developing that hasn’t been fully worked out yet, worries me a lot.