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February, 2020:

Blog on Critical University Studies – references and links to further reading

Dear Members,

On the Earley Gate picket line we have again during this period of strike action been having stimulating discussions about the problems at the universities which include our pensions and ‘four fights’ issues, but are also about the wider context of marketisation, financialisation and standardisation that generates those working conditions.

During the discussion, it was suggested a blog might help to provide members with an overview of further resources to engage with these issues more widely.

We will start with mentioning some brief, ‘easy access’ materials and progress to more extensive and complex discussions of the issues:

  1. Recently, The Guardian newspaper has (finally) been starting to publish more about the problems at the universities (see, for instance:, but earlier on, in 2015, Karín wrote a public letter on the problems of the neo-liberal university, which was published in The Guardian and co-signed by 126 UK professors: ‘Let UK universities do what they do best – teaching and research.’:

Within 36 hours of being published, the letter had been accessed 4500 times. Karín was subsequently invited to write a blog about the letter and its signatories for the Times Higher Educational Supplement online, and this was the most accessed THES blog-post for that weekend, as tweeted by the THES editor.

  1. Subsequently, in 2017, Karín was invited by a the Thinktank ‘Civitas’ to write a report on the problems of higher education and ‘students as consumers’ and this resulted in the following paper (open access also online) which gives an overview of how this whole situation came to be and the consequences and also provides footnotes to further weblinks with studies on specific aspects:
  2. There is a short and useful Lee Jones ‘Seven deadly sins of marketisation’ piece from Medium written during the previous strike action which is really a summary of the complex arguments offered elsewhere, see:
  3. ATTACHED: a paper on ‘Critical Pedagogy and Neoliberalism’ arguing how pedagogies which are often seen to be positive and anti-neoliberal in their focus on individual ‘self-regulated learning’ are in fact entirely obedient to neoliberal aims and structures.
  4. ATTACHED: the introduction to the Shore and Wright (eds) 2018 collection on ‘The Death of the Public University’
  5. ATTACHEDthe paper by Wright and Greenwood (2017) on Universities run by and on behalf of the faculty students and staff (really interesting this one)
  6. ATTACHEDMegoran and Mason (2020) for UCU on the Dehumanisation of casualisation in HE
  7. also attached an email here about an ominous gathering facilitated by the Westminster conference circuit (All Party Parliamentary Groups – APPGS – which are often fronts for private sector lobbyists) – about Education 4.0. etc. and what students really want in terms of technology-led learning, etc. etc – lots of the usual suspects like Anthony Seldon et al are involved…
  8. These discussions have been raging for much longer and much more extensively, however. Here are some of the key books in this area:

Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997); Mike Molesworth, Richard Scullion and Elizabeth Nixon (eds), The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer (London: Routledge, 2010); Andrew McGettigan, The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education (London: Pluto Press, 2013); Roger Brown, Everything for Sale? The Marketisation of UK Higher Education (London: Routledge, 2013); Henry Giroux, Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Chicago, Ill.: Haymarket, 2014); Derek Sayer, Rank Hypocrisies: The Insult of the REF (London: Sage, 2015); Stefan Collini, Speaking of Universities (London: Verso: 2017); Neil Cocks, Higher Education Discourse and Deconstruction: Challenging the Case for Transparency and Objecthood (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2017).

Karin Lesnik-Oberstein and Andrew Ainslie

Further links:

The UK Higher Education Senior Management Survey: a statactivist response to managerialist governance:

USS Briefs:

A New Vision for Further and Higher Education CLASS – Centre for Labour and Social Studies:

The Gold Paper / Goldsmiths:

Blog ‘On strike’


Event: Why Are We Striking?

Join Union members to ask about the strikes: why they’re happening, what’s going on, and
so on.

Monterey Lounge, RUSU, Wednesday 12th February 2-3PM

Click here for the UCU_Panel_Poster