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) -

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