I’m teaching my first Great Christian Thinkers class on Friday, and because it’s meant to be a course that orients my students to their degree as a whole and we’re opening on the theme of ‘What Matters Most?’, we’re going to spend some time thinking about the purpose of university; both what they want to get out of their degree and what a range of other people and institutions might want them to get out of it. I’ve pulled together some short extracts for them to discuss as part of the session, and thought they might be of interest to others: you are welcome to borrow and/or adapt these at will. Continue reading “What’s the point of university?”
Everybody loves a free book, so I present to you today two free books that might be of general interest to readers here, along the theme of the general battles around education and its funding occurring in the UK and globally.
The first is Fight Back! A Reader on the Winter of Protest, available as free PDF download and very reasonable (£1.48) Kindle version to save you the bother of conversion of formats. At 350 pages, it is a collection of accounts, journalistic reports, theoretical reflections, interviews and practical guides on the winter of education protests that occurred here in the United Kingdom against sweeping changes in higher education funding. These changes seek to move from a tax payer provided service for the public good to hyper-indivdualised marketised system with an ontology based upon advantage to private individuals. This programme includes a potential tripling the level of tuition fees with an introduction of variable market rates, vast cuts to central funding, particularly of the humanities, and the under-reported (and perhaps vital for US students looking to study in the UK) slashing of the numbers of student visas. This is, of course, an element of the wider austerity program, and students were keen to emphasise from the beginning their solidarity with those fighting the Coalition government’s wider austerity agenda and austerity agendas globally. It is a book that is consciously by the movement and for the movement, hoping to inform and provoke debate. With the second phase of university occupations occurring on the run up to the mass trade union day of protest (40 universities were occupied in the last round), it is an opportune time to give it a look and if you are from outside the UK get up to speed.
In a similar vein is the PDF version of the book Toward a Global Autonomous University produced by the trans-national collective Edu-Factory. Very much influenced by autonomous Marxist trends, the new thinking on what the politics of the common and thinkers like Hardt and Negri (Negri here provides a co-written conclusion), it is a provocative look at the current place of the university in capitalist society and the possibility of alternative formations. This book and their website, which includes reports from their very recent conference attended by education activists from across the world (including many UK occupations), are certainly worth a read.