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Speaking of Universities

A devastating analysis of what is happening to our universities
In recent decades there has been an immense global surge in the numbers both of universities and of students. In the UK alone there are now over 140 institutions teaching more subjects to nearly 2.5 million students. New technology offers new ways of learning and teaching. Globalization forces institutions to consider a new economic horizon. At the same time governments have systematically imposed new procedures regulating funding, governance, and assessment. Universities are being forced to behave more like business enterprises in a commercial marketplace than centres of learning.

In Speaking of Universities, historian and critic Stefan Collini analyses these changes and challenges the assumptions of policy-makers and commentators. He asks: does ‘marketization’ threaten to destroy what we most value about education; does this new era of ‘accountability’ distort what it purports to measure; and who does the modern university belong to? Responding to recent policies and their underlying ideology, the book is a call to ‘focus on what is actually happening and the clichés behind which it hides; an incitement to think again, think more clearly, and then to press for something better’.

Reviews

  • “Stefan Collini has uncommon lucidity, stamina, and unparalleled generosity in reading, on our behalf, the hugely verbose and obfuscating documents that convey and impose government policy. His patient form of reasoning in public, while it may seem to be overlooked, has very likely acted, like flood defences under ground, to forestall even worse developments here in the UK. His is a strong, persuasive voice, and we need to hear it.”
  • “Stefan Collini pulls back the curtain on the vacuous management-speak of the modern university. ‘Accountability' and ‘efficiency' are smokescreens for the sale of degrees, the creation of debt, and lower quality teaching dressed up as ‘excellence'. Any student who wants to understand what has happened to their university needs to read this book. Any parent who wants to know what lies behind the adverts for securing their child’s future might also be interested in what the words in the seller’s prospectus actually mean and why they are now there.”

Blog

  • The Future of our Universities: Part 2

    Our universities are at breaking point. Governments have systematically imposed new procedures regulating funding, governance, and assessment, forcing them to behave more like business enterprises in a commercial marketplace than centres of learning. This week on the Verso blog, writers respond to Speaking of Universities, Stefan Collini's cogent analysis of the marketisation of higher education. Speaking of Universities is 40% off until April 2.

    In this latest post, Nina Power suggests ways that we can improve our universities, Malia Bouattia on why we need a complete transformation of our society’s approach to education, and Adam Elliott-Cooper examines universities as neocolonial spaces.

    See also: Professor Akwugo Emejulu's essay on the exclusionary relations at the institutional core of our universities.

    Part 1 of this round-up was published yesterday.


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  • The Future of our Universities: Part 1

    Our universities are at breaking point. Governments have systematically imposed new procedures regulating funding, governance, and assessment, forcing them to behave more like business enterprises in a commercial marketplace than centres of learning. This week on the Verso blog, writers respond to Speaking of Universities, Stefan Collini's cogent analysis of the marketisation of higher education. Speaking of Universities is 40% off until April 2.

    In this post, William Davies, Emma Dowling and Matt Mahon look at tuition fees, care work in the university, and supporting outsourced workers. See also: Professor Akwugo Emejulu's essay on the exclusionary relations at the institutional core of our universities.


    Part 2 of this round-up will follow tomorrow.

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  • The University is Not Innocent: Speaking of Universities

    Our universities are at breaking point. Governments have systematically imposed new procedures regulating funding, governance, and assessment, forcing them to behave more like business enterprises in a commercial marketplace than centres of learning. This week on the Verso blog, writers respond to Speaking of Universities, Stefan Collini's cogent analysis of the marketisation of higher education. Speaking of Universities is 40% off until April 2.

    For our first piece, Professor Akwugo Emejulu argues that when we speak of universities we must speak of the exclusionary relations at their institutional core: "Universities are contradictory spaces. They govern knowledge through hierarchies of control whilst simultaneously providing temporary and contingent spaces to think within and beyond themselves. When speaking of universities, it is imperative that we do not attempt to silence the realities of power that regulate what is legitimate to be known."


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