Universities in the UK, alongside other public services, are treated by policy-makers as enclaves of privilege to be democratised through the introduction of quasi-markets in teaching and research, while at the same time what academics do is increasingly constrained by ‘performance indicators’, league table rankings and the like. At the same time, and despite fees, the numbers of students who are benefitting from university education remains high: in 2014/15, 48% of 17-30 year olds went to university. As the recent government bill on Higher Education makes clear, universities have been transformed almost beyond recognition from institutions that offered social rights to free higher education for a small number of people – when degrees where undoubtedly routes to individual social mobility – in the 1960s and 70s, to sites of ongoing marketization and bureaucratisation in the context of policy-makers’ emphasis on public spending cuts, suspicion of professionals, and ‘widening participation’.
At this conference we invite speakers both to analyse the marketization and bureaucratisation of universities today, and also to discuss what can be done. We aim to think about resistance, and also about the possibilities of more fundamental transformation of universities. What, if anything, should we aim to preserve of the value of education as it was established in universities in the 1960s? Is there resistance already going on in the interstices of the ‘audit culture’, and what form does it take?Does the rhetoric of ‘widening participation’ offer any possibilities to challenge some of the ongoing inequalities in universities – around issues of diversity, for example? Does it only ever re-instate inequalities? And what ideas do we have for a radical transformation of universities? What are our ideas about what we want universities to become?
Speakers include: Des Freedman (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths); David Graeber (Anthropology, LSE); Jo Littler (Sociology, City); Vik Loveday (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Andrew McGettigan; Mao Mollona (Anthropology, Goldsmiths); Kate Nash (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Mollie Neath (Students’ Union, Goldsmiths); Dan Neyland (Sociology, Goldsmiths); The ResSisters (Feminist Collective); Robbie Shilliam (Politics and International Relations, QMUL); Brett St Louis (Sociology, Goldsmiths).