Friday, March 8, 2013

Higher Education in Crisis


Call for Papers
This is a stream of the London Conference in Critical Thought 2013

Stream organiser: Joyce Canaan

Numerous critical authors have recently observed that higher education is: in ‘crisis’ (Thorpe 2008); under ‘assault’ (Bailey and Freedman 2011); at its ‘end’ (Vernon 2010) or ‘in ruins’ (Readings 1996). These observations capture critical academics’ efforts to evaluate how processes of privatisation, marketisation and financialisation have impacted northern and southern university systems during the past 40 years and have led to a nearly ‘complete subordination of intellectual life to instrumental values and, most brutally, to the measure of money’ (Thorpe 2008).

Recent resistance to government policies on university has taken two forms: student-led demonstrations, occupations and actions and the emergence of ‘free’ or ‘alternative’ universities. This stream seeks to explore the latter, less explored alternatives, guided by Brown’s (2005:5) observation that the concept of critique comes from the Greek word ‘krisis’, used to explain the processes of ‘judging and rectifying an alleged disorder in or of the democracy’. The contemporary meaning of critique as ‘temporal rupture and repair’ (2005:7) contains elements of this earlier meaning; it entails and presumes a certain urgency to reconsider and rebuild, or to create an alternative to, that which has been torn asunder. Critique might also benefit from insights from historical materialism. Brown (2005:13), building on Benjamin, notes that the historical materialist reroutes ‘by rethinking the work of history in the present, stilling time to open time’. Stilling the seeming inevitability of the trajectory from past to present opens up the present and past to: ‘act[s] of reclamation’, re-viewing and thereby potentially reworking for a more emancipatory future.

Papers for this stream are thus asked to explore how emergent alternative universities today can be seen to operate as acts of reclamation—and might do so more effectively in future. Questions for consideration include:

·        What perceived limits of the public university impel a group to build an alternative?
·        Which theoretical and activist traditions inform their project?
·        What vision(s) of critical theory and/or historical materialism guide them?
·        What understandings of critical education shape their efforts to overcome/avoid perceived limits to the public university?
·        What theories of radical pedagogy inform their practices?
·        To what degree do insights from social movement theories and practices inform their theories / practices? And, in addition, contribute to the social movement literature?
·        What kinds of spaces do they seek to meet, teach and act in? Why?
·        How do they negotiate problems? What theories and practices inform these negotiations?
·        What are their strategies for reaching others as teaching and/or researching partners and how effective are they?
·        How central is praxis to their project?

Please send abstracts for 20-minute papers to with the subject as: ‘Higher Education Submission’.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski
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A paper on the crisis in higher education, by Glenn Rikowski:
Rikowski, G. (2012) Life in the Higher Sausage Factory, Guest Lecture to the Teacher Education Research Group, The Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London, 22nd March, online at: