As representatives of the leading learned societies representing the Political and International Studies profession in the UK, we are dismayed at the decision of Kingston University to close recruitment to its undergraduate programmes in Politics, International Relations and Human Rights. This comes after news of academic jobs in our discipline also being at risk or lost at other institutions including the University of East London.
We understand the financial imperatives of the HE sector in challenging current circumstances, and we appreciate the pressure on universities to take business decisions in the best interests of their institution and employees. We are further aware that the lifting of caps on student numbers in England has had a detrimental impact on student recruitment in some disciplines. But undergraduate numbers have been increasing in Politics, International Relations, and Human Rights at Kingston and elsewhere; moreover, these subjects are also very popular with existing students, as demonstrated by the strong recent National Student Survey performance. Therefore, as a business decision, closing recruitment is, we would argue, short-sighted and counter-productive.
There is also a broader context that we regard as highly relevant. The number of students studying Politics at A level (and equivalent qualifications) is buoyant, and young people across the board are more politically engaged on issues such as climate change, electoral representation, and Brexit. There is significant evidence from around the HE sector of the employability of Politics and International Relations graduates, and the need for Politics and Social Science transferable skills in the business, charitable and public sectors. (See, for instance, this report by the British Academy).
It is also very important, we believe, that Politics and International Relations continue to be taught across a range of institutions serving a diversity of student populations. We have no wish for our disciplines to become ‘Russell Group-only’ and believe they should continue to make a strong contribution to the success of institutions like Kingston University, and their students.
The PSA, BISA and UACES are not trade unions, but we are committed to the welfare and professional wellbeing of our members, and to the pursuit of teaching and research in Political and International Studies especially. We will be monitoring events at Kingston and elsewhere, listening to our members and offering any relevant support as this situation unfolds. We encourage our members, in turn, to offer their own forms of support.
Professor Mark Webber, Chair, British International Studies Association
Professor Roger Awan-Scully, Chair, Political Studies Association
Dr Nick Startin, Chair, University Association for Contemporary European Studies