6 July 2011

University Futures

The hiatus in posts was caused by a brief trip to Cambridge to see my son graduate. The ceremony was typically bizarre in a way only Oxbridge can manage. The graduands were gowned and robed, but had little sense of what they were undergoing, since the ceremony took place in Latin. Much of this seemed entirely appropriate to a ceremony which is one of the few rites of passage that remains in our civic life and would have provided excellent subject material for an anthropological study.

More fun might be had designing the robes for the co-operative university, which has been under discussion here and elsewhere. The UK Society for Co-operative Studies held a session at Co-operative Congress last week as part of an ongoing debate about the need to establish a co-operative business school for the UK. The document produced there for discussion, and the report Co-operation in the Age of Google to which it in part responds, can be found on the Social Exchange Repository.

One aim of the Society is to take forward the debate about the structure of education: 'An educational programme, therefore, is not simply an opportunity to accredit what is already taking place. It is a mechanism by which those who have spent years on co-operative development activities can contribute their knowledge in a way that informs the development of higher education.'

In this regard there are interesting developments already underway in Lincoln's Social Science Centre, which is 'run as a ‘not-for-profit’ co-operative and managed on democratic, non-hierarchical principles with all students and staff having an equal involvement in how the Centre operates'. Staff donate their time for free, but such models could be developed as alternatives to the elite private universities that the government is encouraging.

Perhaps more important, though, is to build up our research knowledge about alternative economic models. So much of the existing neoclassical framework, from economies of scale to the concept of profit itself, have no meaning in the context of co-operative businesses. Until we can create our own concepts and coherent intellectual framework we are not equipped to replace the destructive and defunct capitalist paradigm with a new business model that we can teach with confidence in our universities.

1 comment:

  1. In a way I think that the Cambridge Latin ceremony has more to do with what a University should be about than the place where I work (Plymouth).

    Here the focus is all on the degree as being a passport to a job and a brighter economic future with prizes for being 'enterprising' and "how our academic activities and ideas create opportunities that can, through partnership, drive growth " (Quote from our mad VC).

    At least the Cambridge Graduands (or those who don't speak Latin - is it still an entrance requirement? In my day I could get in on an Engineering degree with a poor pass in General Classics O Level, but most other courses required a proper Latin O Level) didn't have to listen to this sort of claptrap and could imagine that the ceremony was marking the University's success in its prime purpose - finding out new stuff (research) and telling people about it (teaching).

    Cheers Molly,