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Friday 15 June – For a Public University

June 8, 2012

I will be speaking at the University of Nottingham on Friday 15 June at ‘For a Public University’.

Details and timetable here.

The transformation of Higher Education in the UK is at full speed. The cuts in government funding and the simultaneous increase in tuition fees of up to £9000 per year have dramatic implications. While universities emphasise the need to attract private finance, students are pushed towards courses with direct employment possibilities. At the same time, employers ask for closer co-operation with universities not only in relation to research but also in terms of the development of teaching curricula. The main focus is clear; education should be directed towards business interests in order to strengthen the UK economy. One outcome is that Higher Education is increasingly commodified as universities exist in the shadow of the market. The space for critical thinking about society has been eroded, substituting students’ ability-to-learn for consumers’ ability-topay.
Academics have themselves become subject to the charge of irrelevance unless direct policy-relevance is embraced. The critical theoretician is cast adrift as indolent and idle in the race to inform statesmen, to become prophets for science, to make profits for business.

This workshop has the purpose to analyse the underlying dynamics of the transformation of Higher Education in and beyond the UK, to reflect on the social function of Higher Education, as well as develop alternative ways of thinking about how best to deliver Higher Education in the future. The goal is to re-assert ways in which Higher Education can be retained as a public good, available to all.

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