Kingston University has stepped in to save the top-rated philosophy department at Middlesex University, where a proposed closure sparked international academic protests and a 12-day student occupation of the department.

The north London university told students and staff in April that it would close the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy for financial reasons, claiming the subject failed to attract enough competitive funding and had to be subsidised by other areas.

Both Kingston and Middlesex gained university status in 1992, and the proposal provoked national debate about whether humanities had a role in new universities. Sixty renowned academics from across the world declared the closure was of “national and international concern”.

However, the research centre, including four senior staff members and PhD students, is now set to transfer to Kingston University in September, bringing philosophy to the campus for the first time.

In a joint statement, the universities said: “Middlesex and Kingston universities have been in discussions on the transfer of postgraduate philosophy programmes and research, plus associated staff, from Middlesex to Kingston. Those discussions are at an advanced stage and neither institution is able to comment further at this point.”

The save Middlesex philosophy campaign claimed the move as “partial but significant victory”, and said: “Unlike Middlesex, Kingston is expanding rather than cutting back its provision in humanities subjects, and is investing in research in these areas.

“The campaign has directly refuted the line that Middlesex managers have repeated for many years now – a variation on the line there is not alternative but to follow the neoliberal way of the world and close down small academic departments in favour of large vocational ones.”