John Gillies

March 31st 2011

Professor Nick Foskett
Vice Chancellor
Keele University

Dear Professor Foskett,

RE Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele

As an alumnus of the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele (MA Distinction Medical Ethics and Law 2003), I was very pleased to see that the proposal to close the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele was withdrawn last week.  I have been a general practitioner for 25 years and undertook the course on a part time basis in 2001 on a recommendation from two other doctors and a nurse.  I found the standard of teaching high and subsequently went on to publish three articles in British Journal of General Practice with my tutor Mark Sheehan as well as an occasional paper for the Royal College of General Practitioners on the philosophy of general practice.

 I subsequently used this qualification to develop ethics teaching for under-graduates at the University of Edinburgh and post-graduate GP trainees over the past 7 years.  I am now involved with helping RCGP UK to develop a framework for ethical commissioning.  I believe that this will contribute to establishing the highest ethical standards for the major changes proposed in the NHS in England over the next 2 years.

In summary, without the skills and knowledge that I acquired at my time at Keele and the subsequent networking which this has enabled, none of this would have been possible.  I believe that it also helps me bring a dimension of ethical thinking to my tenure as chair of RCGP Scotland.

I do hope that the plan to close the centre has been completely withdrawn.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Dr John Gillies MA, FRCGP, FRCPE
RCGP Scotland

Withdrawal of closure proposals!

We are delighted to announce that due to substantial discussions over the last two days the proposals to close PEAK (the Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele University) have been withdrawn.

This decision was accepted and endorsed at today's meeting of Keele University's Senate.

This means that existing and prospective students need not be concerned about their studies. 

PEAK remains committed to teaching and research excellence - and is actively recruiting for next year's intake to our courses.

However, we are required to produce a business plan outlining ways to ensure the required cost savings over the next few weeks. This means that we may need to reactivate this campaign, but for now, we are focusing on positive developments for the future.

We would like to thank all of our friends and colleagues from across the world for their support. We would particularly like to thank all those that took the time to write letters of support that went to our VC, DVC and Dean.

It was very important to our case that they considered our international reputation and you all made this obvious in the strongest terms.

This has been a difficult week (to say the least) for all of us and our families. However, your solidarity and support has really helped us to put the evidence and arguments forward.

This is a remarkable victory in a relatively short period of time - and it is due to you all.

Peter Neyroud

Dear Professor Foskett,

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

Past and present External Examiners

Prof. Nick Foskett
Vice-Chancellor, Keele University
Keele, Staffordshire
22nd March 2011
Threatened Closure of PEAK
Letter from External Examiners

Dear Prof. Foskett

cc. Prof. David Shepherd
Prof. Rama Thirunamachandran

We hope you are well.

We write in response to the news that PEAK is threatened with closure, with the prospect that many if not all current PEAK academics will lose their jobs.   

In our view this proposal is short-sighted and extremely misguided.  We are acutely aware of the financial difficulties surrounding Keele and the challenges facing all members of the UK HE sector.  But, for a variety of reasons we believe that your proposed solution is the wrong one.

First, let us comment on the academic standing of PEAK’s programmes.  In short, we above all other people can vouch for their excellence.  The teaching and assessment exhibited on their courses is outstanding.  Furthermore, the range of ideas that are discussed is impressive and inspirational.  They are everything a university should aim for, maintain, and foster. 

We can also, as fellow researchers, comment on the value of the research done at Keele.  This is, in our view, of first-rate importance.  PEAK constitutes one of the largest concentrations of medical ethics expertise in Europe, and certainly the largest in the UK.  Again, PEAK is something very special that any University should be aiming to maintain, not close.  We also add that the research undertaken within PEAK is of great benefit outside of academia and that the impact of the Centre is huge.  In our view there is no reason to think that PEAK could not return a very good REF submission.       

Let us also comment on the financial figures that are in the public domain.  We are aware that a number of people in other letters to you have challenged these figures and the modelling that Keele has undertaken.  Some of us share these concerns very strongly.  Here as a group we ask only that the University satisfy itself that these figures are correct.  We are aware of the fact that before it was integrated into the Law School, PEAK was seemingly in the black.  After a small amount of time it is now seemingly heavily in the red.  We would ask you to investigate these figures carefully to make sure that you are not basing a decision on wrong numbers.  Aside from the other points above, it would be imprudent for a University to disband an activity that was either making money or had the potential to make money.

Lastly, although we focus in this letter on PEAK, we have equally strong concerns regarding the threatened closure of the Philosophy Department.  We urge you to reconsider your proposals and to find a different solution.  If both departments close, then Keele University will lose all connection with the subject of Philosophy.  Not only is this one of the central subjects that any decent modern university should offer, your decision will have special symbolic importance for Keele, founded as it was by a philosopher.  The reputation of your institution will suffer irrevocably if both Philosophy and PEAK are closed.

We are aware that you have been receiving many letters from concerned parties over the past few days, and some of us have already seen the standard response that has been drafted.  We realise that you are all very busy, but we hope that you take the time not just to read our letter, but to reply to us personally.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Simon Kirchin
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Kent
President of The British Society for Ethical Theory
PEAK External Examiner, 2004-2007

and on behalf of the following past and present external examiners:

Bob Brecher (Brighton) -
Gideon Calder (University of Wales/Newport) -
Phil Cole (University of Wales/Newport) -
Alan Cribb (KCL) -
Heather Draper (Birmingham) -
Soren Holm (Manchester) -
Emily Jackson (LSE) -
Jose Miola (Leicester) -
Neil Manson (Lancaster) -
Therese Murphy (Nottingham) -
Ainsley Newson (Bristol) -
David Oderberg (Reading) -
Marcel Verweij (Utrecht) -

John Harrington

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

The Society for Applied Philosophy

The Society for Applied Philosophy serves to promote and support the discipline and activity of applied philosophy both in the UK and internationally. The Centre for Professional Ethics at Keele is home to a number of applied philosophers of high international reputation, and produces a great deal of important research... in the area of applied ethics (though the failure to submit the unit in the last RAE may mean that the unit's research profile has not fully registered with Keele's management).
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)

Ross Upshur

Professor Nick Foskett
Keele University
Re: Proposed closure of PEAK and the Department of Philosophy at Keele University
Dear Professor Foskett:
I am writing to express my concern at the proposed closure of PEAK and the Department of Philosophy at Keele University. You have no doubt been inundated by letters opposing this course of action. Indeed, I have read a number of them. It must be encouraging as an academic leader to see the high regard the global community holds for these academic units. I will join the chorus of voices that share that high regard. PEAK, in particular is a highly regarded unit in the area of applied ethics, and a world leader and innovator in the important emerging field of public health ethics.
However, my concerns run deeper than simply the potential loss of an academic unit universally recognized in the field for the excellence of its teaching and research.  When I examined the Strategic Map of the University, I found the following notable points.
The stated vision of the university is “To build upon Keele’s founding value of ‘the pursuit of truth in the company of friends’: we are a diverse, inclusive and professional academic community that respects individuals and enables them to strive for success in order to contribute positively and sustainably to the local region, wider society and the national economy.” I find it difficult to envision the pursuit of truth in an academic community that no longer has a philosophy department. Philosophy is the discipline that is foremost in the commitment to the pursuit of truth.
Further on I read in the strategic aims and objectives that Keele strives to “develop high quality graduates who demonstrate intellectual flexibility and relevant experience and skills, including employability and global citizenship skills.” Again, philosophy is central to the development of intellectual flexibility. Still further on I find that Keele seeks to “foster innovation in a developing collaborative multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research environment, including the development of focused University-wide themes in Sustainability and Ageing linked to the emerging regeneration theme.” These laudable aspirations are well exemplified in the areas of professional ethics, which is amongst the most collaborative and interdisciplinary of academic endeavours. As someone active in the field of aging research, the most substantial challenges facing our health systems and society at large are ethical challenges. Your institution will be significantly disadvantaged in understanding and contributing to this discourse if well trained ethicists are not in your academic community.
I recognize that academic institutions face serious fiscal issues. We are facing similar circumstances in Canada. In all the letters that I have seen circulating about the issues facing Keele, few have directed attention to the upstream causes of the current fiscal difficulties. It is ironic that it is the type of reasoning (economic rationality of a particular form) that led to the eventual collapse of economies that is now being employed to justify the closure of academic units. Perhaps if thinking of a different sort prevailed, such draconian measures would not be necessary.
On a personal note, I studied philosophy before I entered medicine. I sincerely believe that no academic discipline better trains a student for rigorous inquiry. The type of critical thinking skills instilled and cultivated by philosophy are germane to a wide range of professions. Employability is enhanced by these skills, even if they do not show up as direct economic benefits. As an academic physician I have been deeply involved in bioethics. The issues raised in bioethics are of immense importance to modern life as they examine and evaluate questions of fundamental human significance.
A decision to close PEAK and the Department of Philosophy would be a disservice to current and future students attending Keele. It would lead to irreparable intellectual disadvantage. Furthermore, the closure of PEAK and the Department of Philosophy will impair the university’s ability to achieve its stated vision, mission and strategic aims and objectives. The short term financial relief is not worth the substantial potential harm to the academic vitality of the institution. I sincerely hope that this decision is reconsidered.
I thank you for your time and attention to this letter.
Sincere best wishes,
Ross E.G. Upshur, BA(Hons), MA, MD, MSc, CCFP, FRCPC
Director, University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics
Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine and
    Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
Canada Research Chair in Primary Care Research
Director, PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Bioethics

PEAK Response to Senate Document

PEAK has produced a response to the Senate document. Read it here: PEAK (School of Law) Briefing Document for Senators.

Phillip Cole

Dear Professor Foskett,

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.

yours sincerely,

Phillip Cole
Professor of Applied Philosophy
School of Health and Social Sciences
University of Wales, Newport

Professor P.A.J. Waddington

Dear Professor Foskett,
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.

P.A.J. Waddington

Professor of Social Policy
Hon. Director, Central Institute for the Study of Public Protection
University of Wolverhampton

Letter from Wellcome Clinical Fellow

Dear Professor Foskett,

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.

Many Thanks

Dr Joanne Gordon (Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow)

Richard Ashcroft

Dear Professor Foskett

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.

Your sincerely

Richard Ashcroft

Professor of Bioethics

Queen Mary, University of London
School of Law

Martin Wilkinson

Dear Professor Foskett,

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.
Please reconsider.

Yours sincerely,
Martin Wilkinson MA DPhil (Oxon)
Department of Political Studies
University of Auckland

Catherine Womack

Dear Dr. Foskett,

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.

Best Regards,

Catherine A. Womack
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Bridgewater State University

Lindsay Stirton

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.

Best wishes,

Lindsay Stirton

Lecturer in Law

Nils Hoppe

Dear Professor Foskett

I am writing to you, as no doubt many others are doing, to express my
surprise and dismay at your plans to close the Centre for Professional
Ethics at Keele.

The European ethics scholarship landscape is dominated by only a small
number of outstanding centres of excellence, Keele being one of them. I
find it simply astonishing that one of the academically most impressive
and prestigious centres, staffed by scholars of international
distinction, would be considered for closure. The realisation of such
plans would reflect extremely negatively on Keele University and
British academia as a whole, in particular at a time when - despite
budget constraints across Europe - most high-calibre research-led
universities are increasing their support for accompanying research in

Further, the increasing focus placed on questions of ethics and the
practice of responsible science by the European Commission and other
strategic funding and policy bodies should be a clear indication of the
significance of the area. In the light of the circumstances I have
outlined, I can only imagine that the university's plans have been

I would be immensely grateful if you could indicate whether I am
complaining in error.

Kind regards from Hannover
Nils Hoppe


Dr. Nils Hoppe
CELLS - Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences
Institute for Philosophy
Leibniz Universitaet Hannover

Richard Hull

Dear Professor Foskett,

I am writing to add my voice to the widely shared deep disbelief and sadness at the proposed closure of PEAK and the discipline of Philosophy at Keele. This proposal is being tabled at precisely the time when nurturing and strengthening the study of Ethics and Philosophy is critically important.

My association with Keele runs deep. I taught and studied in the Department of Philosophy and, latterly, SPIRE, from 1997 until mid 2000. I have retained professional and personal contact with staff in Philosophy and at PEAK ever since. Amongst other things, this has resulted in collaborative publications, reciprocal initiatives between our respective institutions and the co-opting of expertise from PEAK to develop and publish reports for the Irish Council for Bioethics. Indeed, two of my former students are now employed by PEAK.

Suffice to say, I have first hand knowledge and experience of the excellent teaching and research that is being conducted at PEAK and in Philosophy at Keele. Your proposal threatens many fantastic scholars and, just as important, lovely people. In no way do they deserve to have been treated in the ways that are currently coming to light.

From the evidence that is being revealed now that a little transparency is emerging with respect to the background behind this proposal, some of the practices, policies and procedures of Keele University management have been, to say the least, ethically dubious. May I respectfully suggest that a more fitting proposal at this time would be that all of those involved in the management of the University avail of the excellent ethics training that is currently available at PEAK.

In addition, I respectfully urge you, in the strongest possible sense, to re-think this non-solution to more deep rooted problems and questions in Higher Education, before Keele University becomes intractably associated with the narrowing of scholarship and study based on misguided economic assessments. As is happening all too often in the University sector and in society more generally, this proposal looks at the cost of everything (unfairly it would seem) and the value of nothing.

Richard Hull

PEAK response to Vice Chancellor's E-mail

Thank you very much for your message, and for taking the time to express your concern over what you have heard about proposals for academic restructuring at Keele. I appreciate the concerns and issues that you raise, and recognise the strong commitment to the discipline and its inherent value that underlies your communication.

[It is disingenuous to describe this as restructuring when in fact the proposal suggests closures: specifically, closure of the philosophy programme and the closure of PEAK. Although some ethics expertise (from PEAK) is to be absorbed by the School of Law, the majority of staff will be made redundant based on projected cuts. The assumption that PEAK as an entity could be absorbed into the School of Law by maintaining one or two individuals shows how poorly the management understand or appreciate the distinctive strengths and activities of the Centre. The closure of the philosophy programme will result in an absence of philosophy in Keele for the first time since its establishment in 1949.]

Reductions in funding mean that Keele has had to set a target of saving a total of £6.5m in staff costs. Can I reassure you that recommendations relating to the possible closure of programmes and disciplines at Keele in consequence of this need are made extremely reluctantly, and only after considerable consideration, deliberation and consultation. [We cannot comment on whether the consideration and deliberation was considerable but there was no consultation with staff affected. Figures have been gathered over several months with no explanation or disclosure of the review that was taking place. The proposals were disclosed to us on Wednesday the 16 March for the first time. They were then disclosed to the University as a whole that afternoon.] Any recommendations relating to specific disciplines are not in any way a judgement on the inherent academic and intellectual value of those disciplines, but are a reflection of a complex set of absolute and comparative operational, financial and academic-profile issues relating to individual disciplines, Schools and Faculties in the context of the University’s future well-being. Keele has a strong academic position, but must always seek to sustain that in the challenging financial and competitive arena of UK higher education in the future.

[This is perfectly accurate: the “inherent academic and intellectual value of [our] disciplines” are not in any way taken into account. Indeed, this is part of the problem. As the VC states, it is a purely financial decision. However, while we acknowledge that PEAK must be financially viable, we dispute the accounting system that has been used to calculate our financial contribution to the University. In these proposals PEAK, a post-graduate teaching centre, has been evaluated on the same accounting principles as any academic school that has undergraduate cohorts. They artificially isolate PEAK as though it was not part of the School of Law, of which it has been a part for over five years. The proposals for Senate make clear that the School as a whole is currently making a strong financial contribution to the University. Of course, undergraduate teaching is much more efficient, from a financial perspective. Ethics teaching at postgraduate level was separated from undergraduate philosophy teaching in a past restructuring exercise for which the philosophy programme and PEAK now seem to be punished. The financial review which was undertaken does not, as far as we can make out, include grant income or all of our postgraduate research income which would undoubtedly improve the outlook for the centre.

Furthermore, we cannot comment on the ‘complex set of absolute and comparative operational, financial and academic-profile issues’ used by the Staff Savings Working Group because the assessment methodology and the basis for calculating projected data have not been explained. It has not been made clear whether all units and sub-units of the university have been scrutinised or just specific sub-units. No explanation is given for why certain programmes or units are targeted. It is odd that other parts of the university have been asked to undertake cost savings while both PEAK and Philosophy have been targeted for total closure.]

For this reason, the review that produced the recommendations has been guided by the principles of:

a) Ensuring it reflects the University's overall strategy, including its size, academic shape, and range of activity, and enhances financial stability and sustainability.

[Given that the University’s current strategic plan includes a commitment to postgraduate teaching closing a centre that largely teaches postgraduates, like PEAK, appears contrary to this. We also find it difficult to understand why the Centre was assessed using a financial model more appropriate to undergraduate teaching.]

b) Recognising the importance of maintaining a breadth of academic disciplines and the need to position the University’s academic base to respond to both internal and external strategic drivers.

[Removal of philosophy and applied philosophy through the closure of both the philosophy programme and PEAK raises distinct difficulties for a university that claims to be comprehensive and committed to maintaining a breadth of academic disciplines.]

c) Minimising the impact of any changes on current and prospective students.

[The closure of PEAK will impact upon present students – how could it not? It is important to understand that most of our students study part-time, so any sudden cut in staff will immediately impact on the quality of teaching for current students. The University’s decision to announce these cuts with no consultation will also impact future recruitment on to our courses – how could it not? We contest this claim, which seems to be based on the assumption that one or two individuals absorbed into the law school, would be able to:

  • maintain grant income
  • teach across a range of undergraduate courses
  • teach across a range of postgraduate courses
  • maintain the distinctive environment which has contributed to PEAK’s distinctive and internationally recognised teaching and research]

In the case of the Centre for Professional Ethics, the careful financial modelling that has been applied to all academic areas of the University shows that the staff costs associated with the Centre exceeded its income by 19% in 2009/10, and on the basis of our forecasts will still be over 90% of income by 2013/14. In these circumstances it is incumbent upon us to find ways of addressing a structural problem, and to do so with reference to the principles outlined above. This is why the proposals that will be debated on 23 March by the University Senate include the recommendation that the Centre should not continue as a separate unit, but that some activities associated with the Centre should be identified for full integration with the Law School, which is committed to developing a more distinctive curriculum that includes ethics as an element of legal education. If this recommendation is accepted and implemented, then some of the Centre's activities will be continued, and some of the staff in the Centre will continue to work at Keele.

[There is no discussion of which activities will be maintained or how they will be maintained. We ourselves as a centre have tried to model what the retained posts would look like and doubt that it would be logistically possible for one or two individuals to cover undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, research, and administrative duties as outlined above.]

In the case of Philosophy, the careful financial modelling that has been applied to all academic areas of the University shows that income associated with the programme is projected to fall between now and 2013/14, with staff costs rising to over 90% of that income by 2013/14. In an environment where the number of EU undergraduates taking the subject cannot be increased without a negative impact on other parts of the University, and in the absence of evidence that Philosophy is in a position to achieve significant additional income through recruitment of overseas and/or postgraduate students, the University has no choice but to seek ways of addressing the problem, and to do so with reference to the principles outlined above. This is why the proposals that will be debated on 23 March by the University Senate include a recommendation that the Philosophy programme be closed, and that the income associated with the programme be retained within the discipline's parent School in order to underpin its financial stability and sustainability.

We have throughout this process considered alternative views on how such savings might be achieved. This process has been thorough but the University will consider other options that can be shown to deliver the required savings in the required timescale. We have also ensured that we have followed due process not simply as required by statute but also by our desire to consult fully and to ensure those at risk of being negatively affected are made aware at the earliest opportunity.

[The claim that the University is open to proper consultation and discussion of alternative restructuring options is belied by the fact that this proposal was released at the last possible minute to be discussed at Senate on 23 March and the subsequent Council meeting on 7 April. The group that undertook this review could have been open about what it was they were doing and/or consulted with the Centre during the course of their deliberations – they chose to do neither.]

The proposals for reducing pay costs are the basis of consultation with Senate, and with the University Council in early April. If the proposals are approved by Council then there will follow a further period of consultation, during which we shall endeavour to achieve the required savings by voluntary means. At all times our primary concerns will be for the experience of current and future students and support for staff who may be affected by the proposals.

[Given the weaknesses of the arguments outlined by the Vice Chancellor, highlighted above, we would strongly encourage consideration of alternative restructuring and cost-saving options in a genuinely open and consultative manner. It is clear that as the proposal currently stands, a negative impact on current and prospective students and remaining staff will be both considerable and inevitable.]

James Wilson

Dear Prof Foskett

I am dismayed to see the proposed closure of PEAK. I and all my colleagues in the field are baffled by this: the Centre for Professional Ethics is known worldwide for its rigorous and philosophical approach to bioethics.

I worked in PEAK from 2004-8, directing the MA Medical Ethics and Law 2006-8. If I had not taken up my current post, I would now be Director of PEAK. I can honestly say that PEAK are the finest group of colleagues I have ever worked with. I was struck immediately and continually by the extremely high quality of the teaching, and how valuable the students found the courses. PEAK has carved out a distinctive niche in teaching ethics to full-time professionals. This is a market which can only be expected to grow over the future, and I notice that the university's own projections have PEAK returning to profitability in the near future.

PEAK is a small unit, but it punches well above its weight in research. To give you the briefest summary of some its esteem indicators: PEAK currently has two prestigious Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellows in Biomedical Ethics; in 2010 it played host to a Leverhulme Visiting Professor, and in 2011-12 a Marie Curie Fellow. Its members edit two international journals (Public Health Ethics, and Research Ethics); it recently completed the EU's Textbook for Research Ethics; Angus Dawson is Vice-President of the International Association of Bioethics.

In short, PEAK is one of the best brands Keele University has. You cannot afford to let it close.

Yours sincerely

James Wilson
Dr James Wilson
Lecturer in Philosophy and Health
University College London

Lisa A. Eckenwiler

Dear Vice Chancellor Foskett,

I was shocked and saddened to learn of the proposal to close PEAK at your university.  I have been working professionally in philosophy/bioethics for just over ten years and in this time, have come to hold PEAK in great regard.  Although I am based in the US, I am well aware of PEAK's outstanding reputation through my interactions with its faculty and some of its outstanding students.  Two members of the faculty, Professors Angus Dawson and David Hunter, are among my most cherished colleagues given the excellence of their work and the quality of their characters. 

My plea to keep PEAK open is, above all, motivated by the ongoing and, indeed, urgent need for education and training in ethics.  With contemporary advances in medicine and technology, humanitarian health crises, and the evolving global landscape of research involving humans -- to name just a few things -- the need for institutions like PEAK is more pressing than ever.  I sincerely hope that the university will take the long view in this time of financial strain and uphold its commitment to PEAK.  We can ill afford its loss.

Sincerely yours,
Lisa Eckenwiler

Lisa A. Eckenwiler, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
Department of Health Administration and Policy
Director of Health Care Ethics
Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics
George Mason University

Samantha Griffin

Dear Professor Foskett,

I am currently a PhD student in the Centre for Professional Ethics. One of the important factors in my coming to study at Keele was the status of PEAK as a highly influential centre of bioethics research. PEAK’s position as such as establishment in a central location was also a significant factor.  I have also worked in and around higher education for ten years – and am very aware of the current funding crisis.

I am deeply concerned by proposals to close the Centre, as I am by proposals to close the philosophy programme. The University, rather than being a place of scholarship and learning, appears to now consider itself as a popular degrees machine.  I am extremely disappointed by the low value (as opposed to the simple price) that the University seems to place on these areas of scholarship. The skills obtained from these courses of study may not be those that lend themselves to immediate financial reward, but in terms of the development of the individual, and of critical thought as a foundation for academic advancement, they are unparalleled.

The University also seems to have made a fundamental error in considering that ethics should not be a separate area to law – the two are not the same. Although both disciplines are strengthened by the association, Bioethics in particular operates in an area where it needs to be in association with, but often in advance of, the law. By claiming that some of the Centre’s responsibilities will be taken up by Law is worrying because the distinctiveness of the Centre’s work collapses. There is also no indication of what areas will be considered worth retaining.

I would also suggest that in a University with a medical school, the loss of a centre such as PEAK removes the opportunities for collaboration or future recruitment to courses.  I am alarmed at the lack of consideration that appears to have been given to consultation with the Centre and the Philosophy programme to examine routes to further income generation opportunities, particularly with the advent of higher fees.

I have received reassurances that I will be able to finish my programme at Keele, and receive the ‘positive student experience’. About this I have serious reservations. Firstly, a demoralised staff cannot deliver effective support and teaching. Secondly, cuts to the department may threaten access to appropriate supervision.  Thirdly, a significant amount of my positive student experience is based on identifying with the aims and research of my department.  I have seldom found such a positive environment as that which exists in PEAK. Finally, despite my respect and admiration for my law specialist colleagues, I consider myself as a bioethicist. It was that expertise that brought me here, not the discipline of Law.

Yours sincerely

Samantha Griffin, MSc.