Philosophy, classics cuts would mark ‘demise’ of University of Newcastle: union

Tom Griffiths, president of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Newcastle branch.

Tom Griffiths, president of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Newcastle branch.

THE academics’ union has launched a blistering attack on the University of Newcastle over its plans to scrap philosophy, ancient history and classical languages as study majors and “decimate” their staff.

The disciplines are under review in a redesign of Humanities and Social Science, with proposals to downgrade them from majors within the Bachelor of Arts degree.

The university has presented the plan as cutting 4.5 full-time equivalent positions from Humanities’ overall staff of 72.5, but four out of the five present philosophy lecturers would go.

Tom Griffiths, president of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Newcastle branch, said philosophy staff had been under the impression they would be part of a revamped Bachelor of Arts.

“[We are] particular concerned about the disproportionate impact on two disciplines that are at the very core of the modern university, and in the Humanities and Social Sciences: philosophy and classics,” Associate Professor Griffiths said.

“These are the foundations of what constitutes a comprehensive university dating back to the Enlightenment, and their proposed downgrading, almost to the point of decimation, risks becoming a marker in the demise of the University of Newcastle.”

Humanities would re-organise into four clusters – History, Classical Studies and Critical Inquiry; Societies, Cultures and Human Services; Language, Writing and Digital Humanities; and Healthy Communities and Social Futures.

School head Catharine Coleborne, said the changes would promote engagement with industry and teach “transferable capabilities”.

“The university remains committed to the teaching of liberal arts and is launching its new BA degree in 2018, which includes Ancient History as a minor and as courses within the History major, while Philosophy content will be incorporated into the core courses of the degree,” Professor Coleborne said.

“The BA also has a new major in education and new set of minor studies such as Violence Studies, Writing Studies and IT.”

The school of Humanities and Social Science has surveyed 105 of the Hunter’s employers, the university said, and polled 95 current and prospective students about their education needs. 

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