Statement on Closure of UWE Philosophy from BSP/JBSP

An open letter from Dr Patrick O’Connor, President, British Society for Phenomenology and Dr Darian Meacham, Editor-in-Chief of our journal.

Dear Prof West; dear Dr Griffiths; dear Prof Coffey,

On behalf of the British Society for Phenomenology and the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology we are writing to express our profound sadness and disappointment that UWE, Bristol has taken the unfortunate decision to close its Philosophy degree programmes. As you know, the UWE Philosophy programmes and team are highly regarded in the UK and internationally for excellent quality and innovative approaches to teaching, research and community engagement. Their work enhances not only the profile of Philosophy nationally and internationally, but also the standing of the University itself. UWE is also one of the few universities in the UK where students are able to study the Continental European tradition of Philosophy, including Phenomenology. The closure of UWE Philosophy would thus be a significant loss to academic and intellectual life in the UK and abroad. This is all the more so because of the great effort that UWE Philosophy puts into community and civic engagement.

In a time where our communities and institutions face grave challenges stemming from COVID-19, racial inequality, climate change, economic inequality, and digital transformation, critical thinking skills and reflection on our core values as a society are more necessary than ever. It is essential that these skills which Philosophy provides to students be made as widely available as possible. Crucially, the Philosophy team at UWE is currently leading its field again by taking active steps to decolonize its curriculum and introduce more feminist and BAME perspectives. UWE has also blazed a trail in this regard with one of the few Ethics of Technology courses for engineers of its kind in the UK. It would be a grave error, especially at this time, to walk back this progress that the university, to its credit, has made.

To close a Philosophy department at this juncture signals a profound disregard for both the very values on which a university education resides, and for the broader challenges our communities are now facing. Philosophy as a discipline values self-reflective reasoning, creativity, imagination, and nuanced deliberation. Philosophy also teaches that decisions and judgements can be, upon reflection and evidence, changed or reversed. To do so is not a sign of weakness but, on the contrary, of wisdom and courage. We urge UWE to show this strength and bravery, and to continue its support for the Philosophy degree programmes and the value they bring to the university and the broader community.

Yours Sincerely,
Dr Patrick O’Connor, President, British Society for Phenomenology
Dr Darian Meacham, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

This letter was sent to the relevant parties at UWE on the afternoon of 24 June 2020, as well as being shared via Philos-L. Republished on BSP Online the morning of 25 June 2020, and shared over our social media channels.

Here is a link to the petition: