Higher Education projects

Pedagogies and Politics of Popular Higher Education
Dr. Sarah Amsler

This project examines the limits and possibilities of the new forms of democratic and autonomous (non-state, non-corporate and self-organised) higher education and knowledge practices that have emerged in response to the aggressive neoliberalisation of existing cultural institutions. In practice, I am exploring the nature of the relationships, epistemologies, pedagogies, languages, texts and spaces that make practical-critical intellectual work possible in democratic modes beyond the university, and considering the connection and tension between these activities and collective political action in the spirit of traditional popular education.

Co-operative Higher Education/The Co-operative University
Dr. Joss Winn

This research is based on a critical assessment of higher education in the UK and elsewhere and is grounded in work that has been ongoing since 2010 to constitute and democratically run the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, a co-operative for higher education. It combines a theoretically and practically grounded critique of the political economy of higher education with a genuine ambition to contribute to the development of a new social form of higher education. One aspect of the research is specifically focused on developing a coherent alternative model of academic labour, social property and emancipatory pedagogy and seeks to understand whether forms of property ownership and democratic governance within worker and solidarity co-operatives can be applied to the ownership and governance of higher education institutions.

Academic Labour and the Capitalist University: A Critique of Higher Education through the Law of Value
Dr. Joss Winn

This research developed out of our work on Lincoln’s Student as Producer project. It questions the role and character of academic and student labour in the capitalist university, and the way in which such labour produces value in capitalist society. We consistently draw on the theoretical and methodological work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and a number of more contemporary Marxist writers. The basic research questions can be stated as follows: What is academic labour? What is the role of the student in higher education? How is social wealth (value) produced in the university?

Research with and for schools

Democratizing schools
Dr. Sarah Amsler

Inspired by new research on radical democratic education in Britain and traditions of school and community-based critical pedagogy in the US, this project explores the potential for teacher action research, public space-making and the cultivation of radical-democratic professional identities to facilitate resistance against neoliberalisation and collective work in democratising schooling.

Critical theory of Education

Practices of Possibility in Neoliberal Social Systems

This research explores the thesis that certain kinds of cultural and educational practice have the capacity to create new possibilities for transformative political agency within neoliberal social institutions. In recent decades, many critical theorists have argued that neoliberal rationality, which is the dominant form of politico-economic reason in late-capitalist societies, is harmful to human well-being, democratic life and ecological futures. They also argue that it is increasingly difficult to challenge. This project will explore this problem by interviewing teachers in compulsory and alternative educational institutions in order to understand how spaces of possibility for agency concretely ‘contract’ and ‘expand’ in their work. This project responds to public and scholarly calls for empirically grounded and philosophically robust research that can illuminate not only how possibilities for political agency are foreclosed in neoliberal institutions, but how they can be opened and multiplied as well, and why some educational practices have more potential than others to challenge the dominant rationality.

A critique of openness in higher education
Dr. Joss Winn

This work relates to a number of funded research and development projects between 2009-2013, each of which focused on the role of technology in higher education against the background of Lincoln’s Student as Producer project. It critically examines different features of ‘openness’ in higher education (open access, open educational resources, open source, open data) and seeks to identify the emancipatory potential of open education through a re-evaluation of academic labour and the academic commons.