The Hon. Martin Daubney AM KC

Chancellor and Senate Chair

Australian Catholic University

115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy VIC 3065

Dear Hon. Martin Daubney AM KC and Members of the ACU Senate,

The Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) is the peak charity for the promotion of philosophical research, education, and scholarship in Australasia.

The AAP is alarmed and dismayed to learn that ACU is planning to disestablish the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy with 10 of its philosophers to be made redundant. This is a decision that is particularly hard to understand.

Since its establishment in 2019 the Dianoia Institute has earned an enviable national and international reputation for research excellence in philosophy. Indeed, its rate of publication in the top philosophy journals (which typically have acceptance rates below 8%) is the very best in the world. The work of the stellar group of international philosophers recruited to Dianoia have put ACU on the map in a discipline that is core to the Catholic intellectual tradition. The increased ACU engagement with the Australasian and international philosophy community that has been driven by Dianoia is reflected in the AAP’s decision to hand the hosting of our very successful Centenary Conference this year to ACU and has contributed to a growing, highly positive view of ACU as an excellent place to research and study philosophy.

That this result should be achieved in only four years is an outstanding achievement and a testament to the original vision of the University in investing in Dianoia (and in its other humanities research institutes.) That a university would contemplate destroying such a successful centre a mere four years after its establishment, and in doing so inflict serious damage on its own reputation is incomprehensible. We understand that ACU is facing a budget shortfall due to the loss of international student income. We do not understand how removing its best researchers in Philosophy (and indeed, across the humanities) will assist in winning back these international students given the influence of international rankings on recruitment, and the reliance by, for example, the QS rankings on testimonial support for programs from senior international figures.  

This support will not be forthcoming. There can be no doubt that this mooted decision is attracting widespread and highly negative international attention with many Australian and international philosophers vowing to effectively boycott ACU if it goes ahead. The influential Leiter Blog which conducts a ranking of philosophy programs as destinations for graduate students notes this:  “In the last PGR, (, ACU, thanks to Dianoia, emerged as the third best philosophy program in Australasia, and tied for 32nd best in the Anglophone world.   If the plan, which must still go before the faculty senate, is approved, I would expect ACU to drop off the map.”  ACU is the most improved Australian University since 2017 in the THES rankings. Its rapid rise from unranked (below 800), into the top 300 Universities for Humanities is, sadly, likely to be matched by an equally rapid fall if the current plans are approved. Given that ACU is actively concerned with growing its international reputation – and indeed is currently conducting webinars for staff on this topic – Senate must be concerned with how this proposal is being received, and the legacy it will leave. 

The reputational risk to ACU extends beyond the loss of research. It also faces significant damage to its reputation as an ethical institution and employer, especially given its stated commitment to Catholic values and respect for the dignity of the human person. It has enticed highly talented and regarded researchers to give up genuinely secure jobs at top international universities and uproot their families and their lives to move to Australia to help ACU realise its research vision. They did so trusting in ACU’s commitments to them and believing they had permanent positions. They have kept their commitments to ACU and now, understandably, feel betrayed and distraught at the prospect of uprooting their lives again. The lack of security of tenure in Australia has been the subject of much attention as a result and if this decision goes ahead ACU may find that it has severely limited its own ability to attract a competitive international field for any future jobs it may advertise across the humanities and more broadly. As one senior international philosopher has put it: “This is dishonorable … It is also suicidal if ACU has any aspirations to be a research university: it will make it impossible for a generation for them to be competitive in hiring.”

We note also that the four positions in Philosophy that are to be reserved for the members of the Dianoia group are not specified as to level, location, or conditions. Given this uncertainty, the unseemly and distressing requirement to compete against their close colleagues in a process that will result in nine of them losing their jobs, and the cavalier way in which ACU is treating the firm commitments it made to these researchers when they were hired, we doubt that any of these researchers will be retained by ACU. 

In the light of these considerations, the AAP urges the university to reconsider its plan of disestablishment and instead consult with the excellent philosophers at Dianoia as to how they could contribute to the university’s goal of greater integration of research and teaching and make use of their expertise in the crucial transferable skills of logic, critical thinking, and social and ethical analysis, while continuing to lift ACU’s research standing and reputation. The AAP is aware that staff at Dianoia have repeatedly volunteered to undertake some teaching and offered ideas to develop programs and degrees to bring in money and students. We hope that these ideas will now be given serious consideration. 



Hon. Professor Jeanette Kennett FAHA FASSA

Chair: Australasian Association of Philosophy


Professor Deborah Brown FAHA

President: Australasian Association of Philosophy

18 September 2023

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