Philosophy closure: University of Northampton

Below you’ll find an email circulated by David Wall from the University of Northampton. The only other thing I know about this is that if you visit Northampton’s webpage for philosophy it will confirm that they are not taking applications for philosophy degrees for 2012.



as has happened at a number of universities in the UK, the Executive Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Northampton has decided to phase out the teaching of philosophy and close the department here.  This is planned to take effect from next year with no new intake of students for philosophy from 2012/13.  We think this decision is unjustified, for the reasons described in the template letter below and others, and hope to get the decision reversed so that philosophy can continue to be taught here.  We would be very grateful for your help and support with this.  If you agree and are willing to help please sign the template letter and copy it into, or attach to an email to the Vice Chancellor of the University at or send a hard copy by mail to Professor Nick Petford, The Vice Chancellor, The University of Northampton, Directorate,
Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 7AL, UK.

Hopefully with your wider support, and the support and enthusiasm that our students have shown we can keep philosophy being taught here.

Thanks for any help you are able to offer,


David Wall

Lecturer in Philosophy,
The University of Northampton,
Boughton Green Road,
NN2 7AL,

(+44) 01604 735500 2443



The Vice Chancellor
Professor Nicholas Petford
The University of Northampton,
Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 7AL

Dear Professor Petford,

I am writing to express my concern about the recent decision by the Executive Dean of Social Sciences to phase out the teaching of philosophy and close the department at the University of Northampton.  This decision seems unreasonable both financially and academically.

As a category D subject (according to the classification system of the UK government’s recent white paper on competition in higher education) philosophy has low running costs for the university, currently employing only 2.3 members of staff.  These costs are more than funded by the student fees it earns as it attracts good numbers of students.  In addition to the existing students this year’s first year intake will be 13 single honours and 11 joint honours students.  These numbers compare well with those of departments of similar size both within the University of Northampton and against other universities and would be greater were they not limited by the current caps on student intakes.  Moreover, there is evidence that these good numbers will continue with numbers of applications and offers increasing year-on-year from 2010/11 to 2011/12 (the two years in which a single honours programme has been offered and for which final intakes have been determined by the caps rather than the interest from prospective students) in contrast with many other subjects in the university, and the government white paper suggests that category D subjects such as philosophy will be least at risk from competition from the private sector in the near future.  So there are good financial reasons to continue to teach philosophy at Northampton.

Similarly, the department justifies itself academically, achieving excellent results and providing students with a very good overall experience of being at university.  In 2010/11 80% of completing students in philosophy achieved ‘good’ degrees (level 2:1 and above) which again compares well with philosophy departments of similar size in other universities and with
similar sized subjects at Northampton.  It is anticipated that this will be maintained or improve as a greater proportion of students are single honours who will spend more time dedicated to studying philosophy and receive a more complete and thorough philosophical education, and end of year exam results and progression rates support this optimism.  In addition, philosophy is integrated with a number of other subjects in the university.  The department offers modules that are relevant to, and popular with students taking courses in politics, law, sociology, business, etc, as well as modules that are popular generally as electives, such as the modules in moral theory and in philosophy of religion.  This contribution to the broader educational experience would be lost if philosophy were to close.

In addition to these financial and academic considerations there are important reasons related to the ethos and standing of the university not to close the department.  Philosophy is among the traditional, core subjects of higher education and we believe that any university worth of the status should offer it for study.  As well as the training that philosophy provides for a broad range of careers, something frequently acknowledged by employers in fields such as journalism, business marketing, analysis and consultancy, civil service, education, etc, it reflects the fact that attending university is about more than merely gaining vocational training.  Students recognise this and it is likely to be an even more important consideration for them when they are potentially paying more to attend university from 2012/13 with the introduction of higher tuition fees.

So, there are good ideological, academic, and financial reasons to continue to teach philosophy at the University of Northampton.  I urge you to reconsider and reverse the decision to close the department there and to do so as soon as possible so that it can be properly advertised in the UCAS entry system for 2012/13.

Yours sincerely,


Position/ Affiliation:


4 thoughts on “Philosophy closure: University of Northampton

  1. I am against closing philosophy departments, mainly because I think a few philosophical subjects do no harm to students of other degrees and in fact enrich their lives

    But I am not sure if it is very wise to try to change Northampton’s mind with financial or capacity arguments. Do we want to sink so low?
    Also, it’s a slippery slope. Philosophy departments might get cut exactly BECAUSE they are cheap to teach. Universities in England want to charge the new maximum tuition fees allowed, 9,000 £ per year, from as many students as possible. Students who have to take on that much debt are more likely to opt for courses that yield some financial return, like law or economics (which are also not much more expensive to teach).


    1. I guess these are internal arguments made by those involved, speaking the language of decay clearly well entrenched in N’Hants. Not arguments to be made in any sane world. But then, where was that? We have long known we are working in a sausage factory, as Marx so keenly put it, soon we’ll only be making automated mince pies.


  2. Did anyone see the Youth Fight For Jobs protest (part of the Jarrow March for Jobs 2011) at the closure of Philosophy and the loss of support staff at the University, which coincidentally happened at the same time as the Coca-Cola Olympic torch relay event? When pressed, the Vice Chancellor said that the decision to close the department was months old and could not be reversed. We complained that no-one was informed about this; staff and students should be properly consulted. In my view these cuts are completely unacceptable – University should be about getting a broad, balanced education, not a “sausage factory” – but it seems that from Academy / Free Schools to Higher Education, this is the present direction of travel. The unions need to fight back.


  3. Isn’t this, as students, what we pay for? Why have university fees risen but yet support staff and courses are being cut left, right and centre? It’s ridiculous.


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