Tag Archives: co-operative higher education

Invitation to Workshop on Co-operative Leadership

All academic and professional services staff and students are invited to a workshop on co-operative leadership in higher education on Thursday 25th May, 10-12pm, UL111 (University Library, 1st floor).

Researchers in the RiCES group are exploring the extent to which co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices are present in higher education institutions. The purpose of the research is to develop a qualitative self-evaluation tool that university staff and students can use to enhance and develop co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices in their workplaces and in other aspects of student life.

Over the past year, we have been developing our work through group discussions and interviews with people involved with the co-operative movement. This work has been substantiated with case study research in a co-operative school, an employee-owned high street retailer, a large grocery worker co-operative and a co-operative university in Spain

We have identified a number of core principles which appear to underpin co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices:

  • Knowledge – the production of knowledge and meaning by the organisation as a whole
  • Democracy – the levels of influence on decision making
  • Bureaucracy – not only administration but a set of ethical and moral principles on which administration is based
  • Livelihood – working practices that support the capacity to lead a good life
  • Solidarity – sharing a commitment to a common purpose inside and outside of the institution

The research from which these principles have been identified will be presented at the workshop.

You will have the chance to discuss the extent to which these core principles are present within your own working and learning and teaching environments. We will all then spend time designing a self evaluation tool by which these core principles might be recognised within our own and other higher education institutions.

This self evaluation tool can be seen as an alternative to the metrics and measures approach based on  positive methodologies and methods that are currently imposed on universities by the government.  The self evaluation tool that we are designing implies a more qualitative, humanist, critical-practical reflexive approach to evaluating and valuing the work that we do.

Conference paper on Co-operative Leadership and Higher Education

On 5th April, Mike Neary, Katia Valenzuela Fuentes (Nottingham) and Joss Winn presented a paper at The Co-operative Education and Research Conference, 5-6 April 2017, Manchester.  It is the first report from their Co-operative Leadership for Higher Education project.

This paper reports on recent research into co-operative leadership which aims to support co-operative higher education; where co-operative education is understood as the connection between the co-operative movement and co-operative learning (Breeze 2011). The research was carried out in three co-operatives: a co-operative school, a co-operative university, a workers’ co-operative, and an employee owned retail business. The research is framed within a set of catalytic principles established in previous research (Neary and Winn 2016): knowledge, democracy, bureaucracy, livelihood and solidarity. The results have been developed as a diagnostic tool for academics, other staff and students in higher education institutions to assess the extent to which they are already operating in co-operative manner and how these co-operative practices might be further developed. The ultimate aim of these activities is to establish a cooperative university. The research is funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Download the paper.

New grant to research co-operative leadership for higher education

RiCES members, Prof. Mike Neary and Dr. Joss Winn have been awarded a grant from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to study co-operative leadership. Below, are the project aims, take from the project website:

The aim of this research is to explore the possibility of establishing co-operative leadership as a viable organisational form of governance and management for Higher Education. Co-operative leadership is already well established in business enterprises in the UK and around the world (Ridley-Duff and Bull 2016), and has recently been adopted as the organising principle by over 800 schools in the United Kingdom (Wilson 2014). The co-operative movement is a global phenomenon with one billion members, supported by national and international organisations working to establish co-operative enterprises and the promotion of cooperative education. The research is financed by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s small development projects fund.

Higher education in the UK is characterised by a mode of governance based on Vice-Chancellors operating as Chief Executives supported by Senior Management teams.  Recent research from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education on Neo-collegiality in the managerial university (Bacon 2014) shows that hierarchical models of governance alienate and de-motivate staff, failing to take advantage of research-based problem solving skills of staff operating at all levels,  not accounting for the advantages to organisations when self-managed professionals interact with peers on matters of common purpose, particularly in knowledge-based industries.

The co-operative leadership model for higher education supports the ambition for more active engagement in decision-making to facilitate the best use of academics’ professional capacities, but framed around a more radical model for leadership, governance and management. Members of the co-operative university would not only be involved directly in decision-making and peer-based processes that make best use of their collective skills, but have equal voting rights as well as collective ownership of the assets and liabilities of the co-operative (Cook 2013). This more radical model builds on work done recently as part of a project funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation to establish some general parameters around which a framework for co-operative higher education could be established (Neary and Winn 2015). One of the key issues emerging from this research is the significance of co-operative leadership – the focus of this research project.

Read more…

New paper on co-operative higher education

A new journal article by Joss Winn has recently been published in Power and Education journal. For the first time, it reviews the emerging literature on co-operative higher education and offers a coherent theory of academic labour, the academic commons and critical pedagogy, based on our work on Student as Producer.


“I begin this article by discussing the recent work of academics and activists to identify the advantages and issues relating to co-operative forms of higher education, and then focus on the ‘worker co-operative’ organisational form and its applicability and suitability to the governance of and practices within higher educational institutions. Finally, I align the values and principles of worker co-ops with the critical pedagogic framework of ‘Student as Producer’. Throughout I employ the work of Karl Marx to theorise the role of labour and property in a ‘co-operative university’, drawing particularly on later Marxist writers who argue that Marx’s labour theory of value should be understood as a critique of labour under capitalism, rather than one developed from the standpoint of labour.”

You can download this article from the journal, Power and Education.

A pre-print version of this article is available from the University of Lincoln research repository.

An earlier and expanded version of this paper given at the ‘Governing Academic Life’ conference is also available from the University of Lincoln research repository.