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Alternative & Sustainable Universities

SUSTAINING ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSITIES

UK Free University Network (FUN)

Sustaining Alternative Universities

Collaborative Research Conference

1–2 December 2012

Oxford, UK

 

They will admit that little is to be expected from present-day governments, since these live and act according to a murderous code. Hope remains only in the most difficult task of all: to reconsider everything from the ground up, so as to shape a living society inside a dying society. [People] must therefore, as individuals, draw up among themselves, within frontiers and across them, a new social contract which will unite them according to more reasonable principles.’ (Albert Camus, ‘Neither victim nor executioner’, 1946)

Following on from the inaugural meeting of the UK Free University Network held in early 2012, we are calling out to representatives of all free universities and to all those who wish to participate in a conference with a more focused objective.

In recent years, we have witnessed the accelerated neoliberal capitalist colonisation of the university. In the UK (and far beyond) many students are now priced out of higher education and the academic finds him/herself subservient to the logic and interests of capital. In response to this intolerable reality, many groups of scholars, students, and others have come together independently to create alternative, ‘free’ universities.

The ‘Sustaining Alternative Universities’ conference, as a space for coordinating research and sharing knowledge and experience, seeks to support these projects in taking further decisive steps towards the creation of a national movement of individuals and organisations dedicated to the construction and development of alternative democratic, critical, and ultimately sustainable higher education communities.

 

Sustainability: history, dialogue, and practice

The successes of this movement hinge on its sustainability. ‘How can we build, develop, and maintain truly sustainable educational communities outside the existing institutional frameworks?’ is the question upon which our collective investigations and discussions should be founded. Therefore, our collective task is to conceptualise, research, imagine, and, ultimately, cultivate a sustainable movement based on a network of locally-based, sustainable, free universities. We believe that this conference can help us to successfully undertake this task through a three-step process.

Step one: history. An intrinsic element of building sustainability today must surely be to learn from the history of previous projects of popular, democratic and radical education here in the UK, and beyond. Therefore, we invite representatives of each free university to conduct and present research into the history of these traditions in their specific locality, drawing on their own particular influences. Researchers should keep in mind the practical purpose driving this research and consider issues such as: Who participated in these efforts? How were they structured, organised, and sustained? What was the significance of their historical and spatial context? What lessons can be derived from these efforts for our own endeavours today?

We hope that this shared research effort will allow us to both map out a history of popular / democratic / radical higher education in the UK, and to identify ways these can inform our own current projects. Ultimately, this collaborative research endeavour could also help us trace the roots of our network.

Step two: dialogue. The next step is to engage in dialogue with one another, and with our histories. We need to both imagine our ideals and talk freely and openly about the challenges and obstacles that impede our ambitions and objectives today. We need to name the material, social and subjective conditions that constrain the actualisation of our imagination and hopes. At the conference, we aim to draw on our collective experiences in democratic education to create a supportive, democratic space in which participants feel able to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in these areas.

Step three: practice. Finally, we need to take the lessons and ideas derived from our historical research and dialogue and put them into practice. The conference will culminate in a session in which we all make plans for practical action to take things forward on a local and national level.

 

Affinities and collaborations

We invite collaboration and co-operation with all. Beyond the Free University Network itself, we particularly welcome collaboration from members of the following groups:

Academic members of the ‘For a Public University’ working group and Campaign for the Public University. We at FUN have not forsaken the mainstream university, and many of our members are not only academics or students, but also active in defending the public university. We recognise the rich traditions of critical pedagogy within the university and the enduring possibilities of its democratic promise. We welcome contributions from all academics.

Members of the Co-operative Movement. Clearly, the co-operative model of organisation offers much for free universities today to draw on, and at least one in the UK is explicitly organised upon co-operative principles. We welcome members of the Co-operative Movement who might contribute to our historical and contemporary understanding of co-operative education, and/or who would like to build bridges between these two movements.

University workers who are not academics. All too often, non-academic staff working in universities are marginalised within or excluded from these discussions. Their contributions, knowledges, experiences and possibilities are overlooked. We seek to redress this situation and invite all those making invaluable contributions to higher education in ways that are not specifically ‘academic’ to participate in this conference.

Students and all those desiring to learn. Critical pedagogy aspires to break down hierarchical boundaries between students and teachers, and to expand the right of learning to everyone whether they occupy the role of ‘student’ or not. In the democratic universities we envisage, students shape their own learning experiences. We welcome contributions from students, past, present, and future.

All others who share our principles, and who are active in creating alternative institutions in other areas of social life, particularly in education. There is much we can learn from each other.

 

An open, democratic, egalitarian, anti-elitist intellectuality

This is a critical pedagogical and political project. This conference is not intended to be a typical academic conference based exclusively on theoretically dense papers and presentations. There is validity, truth, importance, and profound insight in many other methods and ways of expressing knowledge, and we open our conference and minds to these. We believe that narrative – telling stories – is a particularly important means for reaching the personal and social heart of the obstacles and challenges that confront us in our ambitions to create democratic and sustainable learning communities.

 

Where and when

In the spirit of the Occupy movement, we have decided to host this conference on higher education in Oxford for obvious historical reasons.

We propose that the conference will be held on the weekend of 1–2 December 2012.

We recognise the high cost of transport and accommodation and ask those in a position to do so to offer contributions to help unwaged participants to attend. A system will be created to make this transparent and possible.

 

Impact and output

Only joking!

We want this conference to be the turning point at which we really begin to cultivate a sustainable and flourishing free university movement. We hope you can join us for this conference.

If you are interested in participating in the conference and/or in its planning of and preparation, please contact either Sarah Amsler (samsler@lincoln.ac.uk) or Joel Lazarus (joel_lazarus@hotmail.com). 

We aim to have a coordinating committee established by 13 August.

 

Venue

The location of the conference venue will depend on final numbers. However, what is certain is that this conference’s organisation will be guided by fully inclusive principles. This means a family friendly venue with park/playground nearby and a safe indoor space for children of all ages to play. Childcare duties will not preclude participation at this conference. Equally, we will ensure that the venue is fully accessible and that all dietary requirements are catered for. Please contact us if you have any concerns, ideas, or requests.

 

**END**

 

‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs

 

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Education Crisis

EDUCATION ACTIVIST NETWORK MEETING

Education Activist Network 

The last few weeks have seen the Con-Dem government up the ante on austerity, suggesting first 25% and then as much as 40% could be cut from parts of the public sector, including education.  When the academic year starts again after summer it will be in the context of an unprecedented attack on jobs and education.

We will also have opportunities to draw the resistance together around national strike ballots in the UCU and a national demonstration from NUS.  The Education Activist Network national conference on 31st October can be an important part in this process. 

To discuss the lessons of recent struggles and the prospects for those ahead, and particularly to get involved with planning and building for the national conference, come to our organising meeting:

6:30pm Wednesday 14th July

King’s College London

Room D11, French Department, East Wing, Strand WC2

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Higher Education Crisis

KING’S COLLEGE LONDON STRIKE ON THURSDAY 6th MAY

UCU is seeking a halt to the redundancy process underway at King’s which has seen 164 jobs put at risk.

A major feature of the strike held by UCU members at King’s on 30 March was the solidarity shown by other universities and colleges, and by local workplaces. On Wednesday 5 May higher, further and adult education institutions across London will be on strike. King’s will also be out on strike on Thursday 6 May.

Staff and students at King’s are holding a public meeting to discuss how we can build the resistance underway against education cuts.

King’s blog site: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/unions/ucu

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MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

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The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

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Lost Generation?

EDUCATION IS LOSING ITS LEGITIMACY

Patrick Ainley and Martin Allen have a well-crafted and disturbing article in The Guardian (Further Education) today: “Education is losing its legitimacy – time for staff and students to step in” (p.4).

There is an online version called “What choice for school and college leavers in this job market?” which you can check out at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/apr/13/lost-generation-higher-education-disillusion

Their new book is Lost Generation? New Strategies for Youth and Education (Continuum, published this month). You see more on this here at: https://rikowski.wordpress.com/?s=Lost+Generation

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MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon at MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Wavering on Ether: http://blog.myspace.com/glennrikowski

STAFF AND STUDENTS RECLAIM KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

Last Tuesday’s (30 March) strike in defence of education at King’s exceeded all expectations. More than 250 people joined loud and vibrant picket lines on all four King’s campuses. Security guards at one campus indicated that numbers entering their building were as much as 75% down. At the main building on the Strand only a small trickle of students and staff went in.

Support for the strike was boosted after the latest hapless intervention by senior management, who refused to allow non-UCU staff to take annual leave yesterday. This prompted more than sixty of those obliged to work on the Strand to sign a card expressing solidarity with the pickets. Members of other unions on all sites brought refreshments out to colleagues on strike and stood with them during breaks. Local cafes displayed UCU material explaining our reasons for striking. Students brought cakes for pickets, played musical instruments, set up stalls and hung a huge banner over the entrance to the Strand: ‘Education massacre: do not enter.’

Messages of support have flooded in from King’s alumni, students and non-UCU staff, as well as from universities and colleges across the country. Colleagues brought solidarity greetings and donations in person from UCL, Westminster, QMW, London Metropolitan University, the Institute of Education, Southwark College, City and Islington College, Tower Hamlets College, the University of the Arts and the London Nautical School. Supporters also came along from local workplaces, including the National Theatre and the National Gallery, and from other unions, including the NUT, PCS, Unite and Unison.

Around 50 people attended a lunchtime rally at Waterloo, while more than 200 students joined pickets for a rally on the Strand, which took place in an electric atmosphere. The huge crowd heard speeches from UCU representatives at King’s and elsewhere, from members of other unions and from a Sussex student who told of their struggles with their own management. Many students heard for the first time of the appalling treatment of our colleagues in Engineering by King’s management. The ‘We Support our Teachers’ campaign was a lively presence throughout the day. Dozens of students expressed their disdain at the way the College’s senior management addresses them in Orwellian ‘Newspeak’. Many have written to the Principal and Vice-Principal complaining that they feel patronised by senior management.

Our campaign in defence of education at King’s is partly about our colleagues’ livelihoods, and about the lack of regard shown to them by senior management. But it is clear that it is also about much more than this. The creeping culture of managerialism in universities is also an issue. The support we have received from students, and from colleagues who are either members of other unions, or not yet members of UCU, is an indication that this campaign is also about defending the values that underpin education at King’s and elsewhere, which include collegiality, respect for individuals, cooperation, intellectual integrity and academic independence.

The verve, humour, creativity and imagination of yesterday’s pickets offered us all a glimpse of the potential that exists within this institution for staff and students to make education at King’s more rewarding and more enjoyable. All too often this potential is either stifled or by-passed by the dead hand of senior management.

Our thanks and congratulations go to all who took part yesterday, and to everyone who showed their support for our campaign. Senior management teams across the country are offering no resistance to government cuts. They are determined to follow the example set by King’s and impose redundancies and department closures on their staff and students. The magnificent collective response to these attacks that we have seen at Leeds, Sussex, Kent and King’s is a powerful reminder to all that if we stand together we can defend our education system from the ministers and managers who want to turn it into a marketplace.

Jim Wolfreys

President KCL UCU

Please continue to send donations and messages of support to: ucu@kcl.ac.uk

For more information on our dispute see: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ucu

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon at: https://rikowski.wordpress.com/cold-hands-quarter-moon/

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon at MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Wavering on Ether: http://blog.myspace.com/glennrikowski

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

DEFEND THE RIGHT TO PROTEST AT SUSSEX UNIVERSITY

Sussex University – where lecturers have recently balloted to strike with a record-breaking turnout – has been the scene of a growing student movement against cuts. Now management have decided to clamp down. In shocking scenes this Wednesday, they brought in riot police with dogs and tazers to attack a student protest.

They have since suspended at least 6 students, bypassing normal disciplinary procedures and barring them from campus until further notice, and taken out a high court injunction outlawing unauthorised protests on university property.

This is an outrageous attack on the right to protest. It is also an attempt to intimidate students and lecturers across the country out of taking action against the government’s education cuts. Our movement can only win if it is united, and if we do not stand behind the Sussex students we set ourselves up for being picked off one by one.

Hundreds of Sussex students have already demonstrated against this clampdown on Friday. Now, we must go back to that fundamental slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all”.  The Defend Sussex Campaign blog features an online petition in defence of the arrested and suspended students. Please sign it and circulate widely.

http://educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/clampdown-defend-the-right-to-protest-at-sussex-university/

http://defendsussex.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/petition-against-student-suspensions/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nosummarysuspensions/

http://www.youtube.com/user/sussexnot4sale#p/a/u/0/7xIKzVMorcg

http://defendsussex.wordpress.com/ 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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