‘All power to the free universities of tomorrow’

The Copenhagen Free University began in 2001. It was an attempt to reinvigorate the emancipatory aspect of research and learning, in the midst of an ongoing economisation of all knowledge production in society.

It operated for six years out of an apartment. The question they asked themselves was:

what kind of university do we need in relation to the everyday?

This is in sharp contrast to the prevailing model, increasingly removed from the lived conditions, needs and desires of most people in society.

In 2010 a law was passed in Denmark that forbid the use of the name ‘University’ for any Institution other than those authorised by the state. The reason was to stop ‘students from being disappointed’.

Below is a statement against his law from those who were involved in the Copenhagen Free University. While their project stopped in 2007 the need to resist the ongoing colonisation of our thought and learning is more urgent than ever.

“We call for everybody to establish their own free universities in their homes or in the workplace, in the square or in the wilderness. All power to the free universities of the future.”

Read the full statement here.

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University and the ruins of the present

Reading the manifestos of the candidates for Provost (President) in Trinity College you could be forgiven for thinking that we really had reached the end of history. Nowhere in their over-inflated promises is there any hope that the university has a future beyond the market, an endless competition for funding, private finance, international students, ‘top’ academics and ‘brand recognition’. They write of hiring ‘development officers’ in New York, Beijing and London to generate funds from ‘philanthropists’ while at the same time supporting the re-introduction of fees and cuts to teaching staff. They all accept the government’s decision to cut funding for public institutions because the banks and bondholders are considered more important than free and equal education. This consensus is mounting all around us and it makes no sense.

But there is resistance.

Below is an eloquent article from friends in America who remind us that: “there is great disorder under heaven; the situation is excellent.”

Read the article

Neoliberal consensus strikes again

In yesterday’s Irish Times there was a review of a report by 17 leading business and public figures. The report, entitled ‘Blueprint for Ireland’s recovery’, claims that Ireland must become the most competitive euro zone country by 2016.

In what has become a familiar argument the report proposes that every Government department should have an advisory board from outside the public service to work with the minister, and a council of economic advisers, drawn mostly from the ranks of expert business leaders.

Included in the report’s proposals is the recommendation that the third level sector be rationalised. This is to ensure that Ireland has a single university of world standing.

One of the contributors is Dermot Desmond. This comes after his ‘manifesto’ on political reform. With such weak and ineffective political leadership it is n surprise that such successful ‘captains of industry’ get their say aired in our national media. More troubling is the ‘common sense’ that their arguments appeal to. When the only consensus is on the needs and demands of the economy it is not impossible to imagine that their nightmare vision will be realised. Ireland has no alternative: having exposed ourselves to the worst excesses of neoliberalism  it seems we must continue down that path in order to save ourselves. They end the report with the claim that ‘without a thriving economy it is impossible for Ireland to create an equal and fair society.’

Unless we start demonstrating alternatives to this empty idea of the public good we will find this kind of opinion gaining more and more ground.

Universities and the New Manegerialism

Here’s another article by Kathleen Lynch (UCD). This one looks at some of the perverse effects of new managerialism in higher education and looks at some of the implications in terms of gender.

It provides useful information on the managerial structures which are being used to control research in universities but also on the subjective and structural effects of these measures. Kathleen argues that the way this interacts with gender is an important, if not typically addressed, element of this process.

Kathleen Lynch on Neoliberalism

This article is based on a paper delivered by Prof.  Kathleen Lynch (Equality Studies Centre, UCD) at the European Conference on Educational Research in 2005.

It deals with the neo-liberalisation of higher education as well as the role of adacemics as public intellectuals in creating a ‘counter-hegemonic’ discourse.

Open Letter to Dublin City Council

Today, the 2nd March, the provisional university sent an open letter to the City Manager of Dublin City Council demanding a space for student-managed teaching and research and denouncing the neo-liberalisation of the university and the destruction of the public good. This is the second step in our campaign to reclaim a space to fight for education as a right and to take back the university. The text of the letter follows.

Dear John Tierney,

We are writing to demand a student-managed educational and research space within the city. Our motivations are set out in what follows.

Both the State and those in control of the universities have abandoned any commitment to education as a right and to equality in education. There is a consensus between the political class and the university elite on the re-introduction of 3rd level fees (or other mechanisms to make us pay for university) and the subordination of research and teaching to economic objectives (i.e. the smart economy), as well as bureaucratic regulations which are often an end in themselves. These measures are justified with reference to the public deficit created by the same neo-liberal politics which are now proposed in order to save the university.

We are no longer willing to watch as the university ‘adapts’ to the global market. We are no longer willing to watch as the university gives away resources and space to neo-liberal projects which, under the cover of ‘partnership’ with the ‘business community’, have introduced the rationality of the market into the heart of the university.

We do not believe that education should be practiced as a hobby or a private interest. Nor do we believe it should be driven by narrow, market needs. Education is collective and open-ended, qualities which are at the centre of the university.

It is in this context that we perceive the necessity to resurrect the university as an egalitarian institution. As a first step this requires a physical space to organize open and independent research and teaching, without fees, points or selling-out to the market. As this space is prohibited to us within the university we now demand a space beyond its walls.

Five years ago Dublin boasted of the most expensive land in the world. Now empty buildings and For Let signs tell us of a sudden evacuation; a living ruin to a false economy. With hindsight everyone sees what went wrong yet NAMA hopes to recover its 40 billion worth of properties and half finished developments by selling them off in the ‘long term’. Not only is this wrong it is also unrealistic.

While we are told that the university has to be undermined because the state has no resources we know the state has at least one resource in abundance: empty buildings. If the state refuses to support education and other public services, we demand that a currently idle state-owned building be handed over to the citizens who believe in equality and education as a right.

There is no justification for maintaining empty publicly-owned buildings. We have no intention of accepting a negative response to our request as this could only be another expression of disdain for citizens and equality.

We perceive the crisis of the university and the crisis of the state to be the same: the mistaken belief that what is good for private interests is good for public interests. We believe in a different idea of the public good.

As students we demand a right to our university, as citizens we demand a right to our city.

While Dublin City Council may not have any formal powers over NAMA or bank owned properties we demand that as our elected representatives you put pressure on those who do. As our elected representatives you have a responsibility to act on our behalf.

We look forward to commencing a dialogue and to achieving our demand.

Yours in anticipation,

The Provisional University

Research and Innovation in Trinity College Dublin