The Reporter
Issue 497, 23 Febuary 2004
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PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT PLUMBING (From Professor Peter Simons, philosophy) Obstetrician Maurice King's cheap shot at philosophy and philosophy students in his letter "Philosophy with Plumbing", (Reporter 497), is based on myth and ignorance rather than on knowledge of the employability of philosophy graduates. While not directly qualified in the way that engineers or medics or lawyers are, they are taught to think critically for themselves, so they are actually among the most employable, and employed, of all graduates. In a Times editorial of 15 August 1998, quoted at, it was noted that US philosophy graduates' "employability, at 98.9%, is impressive by any standard. Philosophy has always been a good training for the law; but it is equally useful for computer scientists. In this country, the Higher Education Statistics Survey puts philosophy of science right up with medicine in its employment record for graduates." Because philosophers don't wear white coats or use expensive equipment, there may be a tendency to think they just sit around and ponder to themselves, and so are useless to society. In fact they can be very useful. In Dr King's own subject of medicine, one of the useful things philosophers do is consider the ethics of medical practices and problems, generally unencumbered by the excess baggage that many religious moralists bring to these issues. The ethics special study module that Leeds medical students take is run jointly by medicine and philosophy, and is a roaring success. So perhaps next time Dr King wants to make cheap fun at the expense of another discipline, he should do what scientists are supposed to do: check his facts.

SHREDDED CONIFERS (From Steven Richardson, chemistry) I noted with some pleasure that the sadly trampled conifers outside the works and services stores on Woodhouse Lane had been replaced recently with ‘foot friendly’ grass. I noticed today that this grass has been removed and newly-sprouting daffodils, three trees and bare soil have replaced it. Knowing what students are like I imagine that these daffodils and trees will not last very long. Have the conifers been put through the shredder or been replanted elsewhere on campus? If they are being shredded then a simple email to all staff at leeds, offering ‘buyer collects’, could have found a good home for them. In these times of financial hardships I find that replacing an abused resource with a sound alternative, then that being replaced by a flimsy and easily abused replacement to be a waste of the limited resources of the University. I also hope that the area outside the main steps will be replanted with environmentally-friendly, economic and robust plants.

CHASING PAPER (From Friedy Luther, dentistry) Our undergraduate course has just received a General Dental Council visitation; the University is having an institutional audit by the Quality Assurance Agency which includes an assessment of higher degrees. We receive Royal College visitations to assess our postgraduate course in orthodontics and the specialist registrars also undergo record of in-training assessments which involve course and training reviews. The same postgraduate course is being assessed by the University's in-house quality management enhancement unit to see it meets their specifications. The University also undertakes regular course reviews. In addition, we have the Research Assessment Exercise in 2006 and there's a 'mock' RAE ahead of 2006. Furthermore, I must keep up my own continuing professional development and, as a clinical academic, appraisal now involves '360 degree feedback' and two appraisers – one NHS and one University. On top of that, we also have peer assessment for audit and lecturing skills and re-validation is looming. Do I have time to do my 'real' job? No! Certainly not as well as I would like or need to – because of all the time it takes to do the necessary paperwork. Is that good? Only if you want good paperwork. Please: if we still need (clinical) academics rather than just paper trails, then we must have time to do our job and the chance of progressing up the (increasingly unfeasible) career ladder. That is, if we also want excellent (clinical) (post)-graduates and excellent research. Why is it impossible for these various bodies to co-ordinate and rationalise instead of just bolting on another layer of assessment? (Also published in British Dental Journal 196, page 188 - 189, 28 February 2004.)


Page owner: | Updated: 10/5/04
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