I know that this will not be the only letter that you receive on this subject, but I wanted to add my own voice to others who will be raising concerns about the potential loss of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele. I missed your own input at the seminar on Ethics in Policing in the Autumn, but I know that you shared your own pride, on behalf of Keele, in the centre of excellence that PEAK provides. You were right to do so and the seminar on ethics in policing was a major first for the UK police service, which has frankly been slow to take ethics to its core.
I know that you will have some extremely difficult choices to make about where and how to make cuts. Having just stepped out of my role at the head of the National Policing Improvement Agency I know that you are not alone in having to make cuts on a scale that few of us in the public service have experienced.
One of the obvious ways of judging areas for cuts is to reflect on whether they are likely to be critical for the future. I have have just completed a Review of Police Leadership and Training for the Home Secretary. The final report will present a radically different view of police training and leadership development with ethics as one of the strands given a much higher profile and a new, central role for Higher Education. It is clearly up to Keele University to decide whether it wants to continue to compete for business in this area, but I would judge that the Centre has just made a timely investment of effort in an area where ethics are about to become central to a new professionalism. I think you would be premature to decide to close the Centre before you have had a chance to reassess the landscape in the light of the Review. Moreover, I judge that policing will not be the only professional area that will find a renewed focus on ethics attractive in the new era of localism and distributed power.
It is clearly your choice. If there is anything that I can do personally to assist your choice in due course, then please get back to me.
Peter Neyroud QPM
Doctoral Researcher, Institute of Criminology,
Cambridge University, CB3 9DA
General Editor, Policing: a Journal of Policy and Practice
Peter Neyroud Research Associates Limited
Registered Company no. 7321631
Bob Brecher (Brighton) - R.Brecher@brighton.ac.uk
Dear Professor Foskett It is with some dismay that I have learned of the decision of Keele University to close its centre for professional ethics. PEAK has a well deserved reputation as a centre of international excellence in this field. Its scholarship is first rate, covering a range of both traditional and developing areas in ethics. Its teaching programmes are an outstanding example of interchange between the academy and practice. PEAK makes a genuine, socially valuable contribution to critical reflection and humane practice in the health services and other areas. Given the major changes proposed for the NHS, this contribution becomes ever more important to patients, professionals and to all citizens. Until recently I was Director of the Institute of Medicine, Law and Bioethics at the University of Liverpool. In developing our teaching and research programmes we looked to Keele as a role model given its status as one of the top three or four centres of excellence in professional ethics. In particular through its close collaboration with the Law Department, PEAK has played a considerable role in shaping the development of my own discipline of medical law, both in terms of scholarship and as regards the creation of law by way of statute or common law decision. I urge you strongly to reconsider this decision and to secure Keele's reputation for scholarship and social impact. Yours sincerely John Harrington Professor of Law University of Liverpool
Given the Centre’s international reputation and importance we are at a loss to make sense of the proposed closure of this internationally important academic unit. The proposal seems even more perplexing at a time in the UK when universities are required to show “impact”: where academic research has a reach and influence beyond the academy. The Centre for Professional Ethics exhibits exactly this kind of impact, with its research being relevant to, and used by, a broad constituency including policy makers and professional bodies.
We, the office holders and executive committee of the Society for Applied Philosophy, strongly urge you to reconsider this proposed closure.
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve (House of Lords/President of Society)
Prof. David Archard (Lancaster University/Hon. Chair)
Dr Neil C. Manson (Lancaster University/Hon. Treasurer)
Dr Kimberley Brownlee (Manchester University/Hon. Secretary)
Prof. Tom Sorell (Birmingham University/Exec Committee)
Prof. Chris Megone (Leeds University/Exec Committee)
Prof. Ingmar Persson (Gothenburg University/Exec Committee)
Prof. Rosamund Scott (King's College London/Exec Committee)
Prof. Hugh LaFollette (South Florida/Exec Committee)
Dr Lorella Terzi (Roehampton/Exec Committee)
Dr Suzanne Uniacke (Hull/Exec Committee)
Mr Jon Cameron (Aberdeen/Exec Committee)
I am writing to you concerning the proposed closure of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele (PEAK), and the proposed closure of the Philosophy programme.
I am external examiner on two of the MA programmes at the Centre, the Ethics of Policing and the Ethics of Social Welfare. I am also a former student at Keele University, having gained my PhD in Philosophy there.
With reference to PEAK, from my experience as external examiner on these courses, it appears to me that in PEAK you have a unique institution which is reaching out to the local community and having a significant impact upon it, and and in doing so giving the University a distinct and valuable role. The students on the programmes receive teaching of the highest standards, and as a result are producing work that will have a significant impact on their practices.
I cannot comment on the financial background, but would make the point that PEAK offers a valuable contribution to the university's reputation and position in the local community that cannot be measured in financial terms. To discard it would significantly reduce the University as an institution, even though it may save you financial costs.
At the international level, PEAK has a world-wide reputation for high quality research, and its members are highly respected in the academic community. Again, to discard it would be a severe blow to the standing of Keele as a university.
On the proposed closure of the Philosophy programme, again I cannot comment on the financial background, but what attracted me to work as an external examiner at Keele -- apart from my connection with the Philosophy programme -- was Keele's own history as an institution and the vision behind it. As you well know, Lord Lindsay's original vision was inspired by the need to respond to the catastrophe's of Fascism and the Second World War, which he saw as, partly, caused by a failure of communication between educated people. The Second World War saw the perversion of scientific knowledge and the growth of unethical political systems, and the idea behind Keele was to counter these developments by offering a balance of specialist expertise with a wider understanding of ethics and culture.
I quote Lord Lindsay straight from your own alumni website: "If we are going to try and keep a democratic country and maintain understanding of one another, we have to send out people from our universities who can do the technical stuff and who at the same time have an understanding of political and social problems and of the values that lie behind them". At my induction as an external examiner, that vision was presented to me as still an essential part of Keele's meaning as an institution, and I found that inspiring and moving.
It seems to me that Philosophy is an essential part of that original vision, and PEAK itself expresses it most fully. To close these programmes would be extremely damaging to Lord Linday's founding idea, and to the very idea of Keele as a unique educational institution.
I would urge you to avoid the closure of these programmes.
I was saddened and perplexed to learn of the proposed closure of the Centre for Professional Ethics and Philosophy. I can readily appreciate the severe budgetary difficulties that Keele is facing and the need to make unpalatable decisions — they are endemic across the sector. On the other hand, ‘professional ethics’ is ...not only an arena in which academic knowledge can make a direct contribution, but it seems to me to be a field of inquiry that is destined to grow as more occupations strive to attain professional standing and are obliged to confront the insatiable public appetite for the highest ethical standards. As technology develops, so too acute ethical issues seem inevitably to emerge.
Keele has been a University at the leading edge of this academic subject. I’m surprised that such a ‘growth subject’ is not regarded as an opportunity to be grasped rather than a financial burden to be cast aside.
Professor of Social Policy
Hon. Director, Central Institute for the Study of Public Protection
University of Wolverhampton
I was awarded a Clinical Fellowship in Biomedical Ethics from the Wellcome Trust in 2010 to conduct postgraduate research at the Centre for Professional Ethics (PEAK). As part of my application, external peer reviews of my research proposal were sought from national and international experts. They all described Keele as an ideal location for bioethical work and indeed commented on the respect and esteem with which the department’s research output and staff are held generally. As you may well know, two of the four fellowships which have been awarded since the Wellcome scheme started in 2009 have been to this institution, a remarkable achievement. I therefore have no doubt that PEAK played a major part in the success of my application and would benefit from such funding in the future. We all understand the need to make hard decisions in tough times. However, short-term gains have to be balanced against long-term goals and the decision-making process be as fair and transparent as possible.
As other people have said, the closure of PEAK could irrevocably damage the university’s reputation and I would hasten to add also eradicate a fantastic potential source of revenue in future years. As a doctor in the NHS, I am aware of a great need and desire amongst my colleagues for good quality training courses which can contribute to CPD (Continuing Professional Development). The current annual appraisal system and the introduction of revalidation next year means that staff are always on the lookout for interesting courses to attend. This is a relatively untapped market that PEAK is in a very fortuitous position to pursue.
I urge you to firstly, open dialogue with the relevant staff to determine if a less drastic resolution can be identified and secondly, take a long-range perspective and recognise the potential that PEAK offers both intellectually and financially.
Dr Joanne Gordon (Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow)
I am writing to record my surprise and dismay at proposals to close the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele (PEAK), and to ask you to reconsider most carefully.
This Centre is arguably the leading centre for applied and practical ethics in the United Kingdom, with an outstanding international reputation. Only the centres at Oxford and Manchester come close. Neither of those centres have either the breadth of research areas within applied ethics, or the reputation for disinterested and open-minded scholarship, for which PEAK is famous. And neither of those centres have the track record of research funding, publication in volume and quality, training of healthcare professionals and philosophers at Master’s level, innovation in pedagogy and programme design, or concentration of young and mid-career scholars of quality and ambition.
All of this has been achieved with considerable effort, very largely due to external funding – unlike almost any other philosophy-based research group in the UK – and requiring enormous effort, commitment and flexibility on the part of its staff. The energy and sacrifices they have made in terms of travelling the country bringing ethics education and training to users, instead of expecting the users to come to them, has been second to none, and must have imposed considerable strain on staff and their family lives over the years.
To consider closing the Centre now shows that the University sets all of this quality, energy, and loyalty at practically nothing. It communicates a grim message to your other staff, who must by now be wondering what loyalty they can expect from their employer, and what promises they can actually take at face value. If a Centre which has done everything asked of it by the University, and more, can still face closure, then it is a sad day for Keele, and the university sector in the United Kingdom.
I must also record that to close this Centre would be disastrous for the field of applied ethics in the United Kingdom. But I do not expect that argument to hold any great interest for you, as it is your university’s interests which are your concern, quite properly.
Professor of Bioethics
Queen Mary, University of London
School of Law
I am writing to express my dismay at the proposal to close the Centre for
Professional Ethics (PEAK). I was a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at PEAK
in the second half of last year. PEAK is a splendid centre. It has
talented, dedicated, hard-working academics who collectively form a lively
critical mass. Such a critical mass is unusual; academics who do not have
the good fortune to work in such an environment would give a great deal to
be surrounded by such an intellectual buzz. The Centre is unusual in
another way: it is particularly good at linking with the professions,
thanks to its teaching and service, and with disciplines besides applied
ethics. Such genuine openness to other disciplines is rare.
PEAK has enormous respect in the UK and overseas (as I am testifying). It
is an aspect of Keele University that stands out internationally. We can
all remember -- years after the events -- the shortsighted closures of
highly-respected well-functioning units in British universities. It would
damage Keele's reputation considerably if PEAK's closure were to proceed.
Martin Wilkinson MA DPhil (Oxon)
Department of Political Studies
University of Auckland
I am writing to express my serious concern about the proposed closing of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele University. As an American public health ethicist who also has worked in university administration, I am very sympathetic to the difficult choices you are facing, and the pressures on you from forces outside of your university. Here in Massachusetts, we are constantly underfunded and are facing massive cuts in our state budgets that have strong effects on higher education.
However, I think that closing the Centre for Professional Ethics is a serious mistake, and that such an action will hurt not only the students, faculty and staff directly involved, but also your university, the British university system, and indeed the British government. Others have written to address in detail the excellent work coming out of the Centre, the effects it has on numerous fields, and its world-class status as a place for innovative work. I concur; I have worked with numerous scholars of the Centre, and it is clear that at every international conference (most recently the World Congress of Bioethics in Singapore in July 2010), Keele's name is familiar to everyone because of the work done by talented and well-trained researchers at the Centre.
However, the Centre is also a place where crucial ideas for solving major policy and political problems are developed. Especially in the light of the global financial crisis, in particular in light of out-of-countrol spending in health care, you (and we in the US) need the work of these people to help address the seeming-intractable problems that are endangering the lives and well-being of the British people. I know I speak in dramatic terms, but it is true that bold solutions need unfettered and brilliant thinkers, working together in a climate of intellectual cross-pollination. Keele is one of the few places where that happens.
I know you have to make cuts in your budget-- my appeal to you is that you look for some ways to keep the Centre intact. Talk to those at the Centre; enlist their input. They will help you come up with some solutions that administration may not have thought of. I have been in meetings where this has happened, and I am sure you have, too.
I appreciate your time and attention to this email, and I urge you to work with Centre staff to avoid its closure. I wish you good luck in navigating this fiscal crisis.
Catherine A. Womack
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Bridgewater State University
Dear Professor Foskett,
I am writing to express my concern and disappointment at the proposed closure of PEAK, the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele, with the absorption of some of its activities within the Law School. I would like to say first that I understand the pressure that institutions like Keele are under in the current funding envi...ronment, and I recognise that difficult choices may have to be made as to where cuts are to fall. At the same time, PEAK is undoubtedly one of the jewels of your University, and I can't help thinking that your analysis of Keele's priorities and strategy has somehow gone awry, however carefully the decision-making process has been undertaken. I know that you have received many e-mails expressing concern at the decision, and putting forward arguments in PEAK's defence. I doubt I have anything new to add to making this case, although I would like to express my belief that such arguments are ultimately sound. I will concentrate instead on expressing some possible scepticism about the way such decisions are made, and how you might respond to this scepticism.
I understand that the decision-making process has been informed by financial modelling of projected income and staff costs over the next few years. This is of course an essential part of business planning, but the robustness of such modelling exercises depend ultimately not so much on the data speaking for itself as from the judgements made by the analyst. Moreover, when such modelling informs the choice among rival proposals, another distorting factor is at play. Suppose that the modelling exercise produces a projection of (say) a financial position two years down the line, with the estimate including some degree of error (it would be inconceivable that the estimate would be spot-on). Now if the size of the error is large relative to the estimate, the decision that is made is likely to be a product of the error, rather than the estimate. In economics, a version of this is known as the 'winner's curse' and it explains a whole manner of things. Why do mergers rarely achieve their projected synergies? Because the company that succeeds in the take-over is frequently not the one which has made the mean error, whose expected value is zero, but the one which has most extravagantly over-estimated the synergies, and offered the wildest price to the taken-over company's shareholders.
With this scepticism in mind (and I speak not as someone opposed to such methods of decision-making; my current research in fact involves Bayesian statistical modelling of judicial decisions) can I now suggest how you can give confidence to yourself and to others that the decision is based not just on modelling but on sound modelling:
1. You need to give some reassurance about the soundness of your financial modelling generally. As a nice summary, out of all the projections about income, staff costs, student numbers etc., you have made in the last five years, what proportion have been within 10% of the actual realised figures? If this is not the overwhelming majority, then can you see the problem that people might have in having confidence in the decision-making process? If you cannot produce the figures I am asking for, then you are not adequately quality-assuring your own decision-making processes, and your decision-making process might equally fail to inspire confidence.
2. You need to make your projections and financial modelling (just of PEAK, not the wider university's finances which are understandably a matter of commercial confidence) available for scrutiny. You need to be able to state exactly the assumptions that went into them, so that alternative assumptions can be modelled and sensitivity analyses undertaken.
I hope you will undertake these measures forthwith, so that even those who disagree with your decision can have confidence in the decision-making process by which the decision was reached.
Lecturer in Law