Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Short History of Hacking: Values and principles for co-operative higher education

Joss Winn recently gave a keynote talk at Newcastle College’s ‘Student as Producer’ conference. You can read the full script of his talk on his blog.

“Newcastle College should be commended for recognising the need to involve students in the governance of your institution. In your own HE Partnership Strategy you state that “meaningful partnership working is reliant upon the equal distribution of democratic power.” You argue rightly that this isn’t just achieved by listening to the so-called ‘student voice’ but by “empowering students to drive and implement change.” And “this will involve redistributing power across our HE communities up to and including HE Academic Board through engaging students in all stages of the decision making process.” My question to you is how do you intend to constitute this form of democracy. You say that you will embed it “throughout all aspects of the HE learning experience” but what constitutional form will that take and how will you hold each other to account? These are not questions unique to your own stated objectives, but are being asked all the time by people who desire democracy in their work as they do in their politics.

The question I am interested in then, is what steps might we take to reconstitute and transform our institutions into member-run, democratically controlled co-operatives? Institutions that enable us to reflect deeply on the conditions of present day knowledge production and truly put Student as Producer into practice?”

New research on the state of academic freedom in Europe and Africa


Last month, University of Lincoln Marie Curie fellows Dr. Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua and Dr. Klaus Beiter (both working with Professor Terence Karran) presented papers at the EU-funded UNIKE conference: Universities in the knowledge economy: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific and Europe. Their panel focused on the state and politics of academic freedom in higher education in Europe and Africa, and in this context they presented initial conclusions from their respective research projects in the field.

Joss Winn and Sarah Amsler also presented their work on co-operative and alternative education in the ‘Alternative Ways of Thinking the University’ stream at this conference; read his blog on labour, property and pedagogy in co-operative education and her paper on popular higher education here.

Assessing reform and innovation in African universities against recent trends in respect for academic freedom (Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua)

African universities and intellectuals, from the time of independence, have faced significant violations of academic freedom. With the return to democracy in the era of globalisation, African states have undertaken some major reforms to enable the university to meet the demands and concerns of the 21st century. The paper revealed, however, that the reform process is externally driven and in most cases that autonomy is granted in name only as governments have, in actual fact, not left the universities. Relying on data I have gathered over the past year as a Marie Curie Fellow working on a project on ‘Building Academic Freedom and Democracy in Africa,’ the paper reviews the level of respect for the four elements of academic freedom recognised in the 1997 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel: individual freedoms, institutional autonomy, self-governance and tenure.  It also analyses the violations recorded in a legal context to determine the culpability of African states under international law. The conclusion is that academic freedom is not properly positioned within the African university to enable it to  act as a driver and facilitator of higher education reform efforts.
Read the full abstract.

“Measuring” academic freedom as an international human right: an assessment of the legal protection of the right to academic freedom in Europe (Klaus D. Beiter)

Academic freedom is generally recognised as a human right, both at the national and the international level. Focusing on Europe, specifically those countries that are members of the European Union, it may be observed that Academic freedom is generally recognised as a human right, both at the national and the international level. Focusing on Europe, specifically those countries that are members of the European Union, it may be observed that the right to academic freedom often has a basis in the constitutions and laws on higher education of these countries. The countries concerned are also bound under international human rights agreements, such as the International Covenants on Civil and Political and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, respectively, or the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, As will be shown in this article, on closer analysis – assessing merely the legal protection in EU Member States, an examination of the factual situation to be undertaken at a later stage – it appears, however, that increasingly merely lip-service is being paid to this important right. The results for different European countries have been quantified and the countries ranked in accordance with “their performance”. The assessment facilitates drawing conclusions as to the state of health of the legal protection of the right to academic freedom in Europe.
Read the full abstract.

Participate in the Academic Freedom Survey




Call for Papers: Education and the Future

First International Conference on Anticipation
November 5-7 2015
University of Trento, Italy

Anticipation is coming to the fore as an emerging field of study that is influencing a wide variety of disciplines. This international conference will explore the interaction among anticipation, uncertainty and complexity. Visit the conference website for further details.

We are now accepting paper abstracts for a stream on ‘Education and Anticipation’

Deadline: April 30, 2015

Education has long been understood as one of the primary mechanisms by which societies and individuals have sought to tame the future by acting on the present: future needs are forecast, educational interventions are designed, human capabilities and certificates that can act as talismans against future insecurity are achieved. In a morphogenetic society (Archer, 2012), in which radical novelty and unpredictable change are the norm, however, this linear model of projection and intervention is far from adequate. John Dewey once even argued that ‘the ideal of using the present simply to get ready for the future…omits, and even shuts out, the very conditions by which a person can be prepared’ for one (1938). How, then, might we begin to reconceptualise an educational system that is able to build personal, collective and societal capacity to hope and to create better futures in conditions of ongoing and radical disruptions? What new educational structures and practices – both inside and outside conventional schools and universities – are emerging in these conditions? What new conceptions of ‘being educated’ are emerging in these conditions and which should we be working towards?

This session invites proposals that provide a robust analysis of the contemporary situation and that also begin to identify sites of possibility and examples of potential change. We are interested in proposals from across the full range of disciplines, from sociology to computer science to philosophy.Papers might be interested in exploring issues that include but are not limited to:

The ‘Educated human’ in the morphogenetic society (What does being ‘educated’ mean in conditions of radical change?)

Prefigurative practice (the role of schools, universities and informal educational spaces as sites for the embodiment and development of ethical, reflexive anticipatory practices)

Technologies for democratisation (How/are new institutions, new technologies constructing the potential for more democratic and distributed forms of anticipatory educational practice?)

Who are the teachers & professors? (What new sites of expertise and insight are emerging that can build human anticipatory potential? How do these differ from existing patterns of professional development?)


  • Keri Facer (University of Bristol)
  • Sarah Amsler (University of Lincoln)

Relevant information To submit an abstract to this workshop send a mail to both Keri Facer ( and Sarah Amsler (

  • Further information on the conference
  • Session’s speakers should register and pay the conference fee:
    • Early registration (before 1 September 2015): € 150
    • Late registration (from 1 September 2015): € 200

Important dates• Abstract submission: 30 April 2015
• Acceptance notification: 15 May 2015
• Final program: 15 June 2015
• Early registration: Before 1 September 2015
• Deadline registration: 20 October 20

Open Education and the emancipation of academic labour

Joss Winn has a new article in Learning, Media and Technology journal. It’s part of a forthcoming special issue on ‘Critical Approaches to Open Education’. In addition, our colleague at DMU, Prof. Richard Hall, also has an article published in the same issue: For a political economy of massive open online courses.

Open Education and the emancipation of academic labour


I have previously argued that open education is a liberal project with a focus on the freedom of things rather than the freedom of people (Winn, Joss. 2012. “Open Education: From the Freedom of Things to the Freedom of People.” In Towards Teaching in Public: Reshaping the Modern University, edited by Michael Neary, Howard Stevenson, and Les Bell, 133– 147. London: Continuum). Furthermore, I have argued that despite an implicit critique of private property with its emphasis on ‘the commons’, the literature on open education offers no corresponding critique of academic labour (Neary, Mike, and Joss Winn. 2012. “Open Education: Common(s), Commonism and the New Common Wealth.” Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization 12 (4): 406–422). In this paper, I develop my critical position that an emancipatory form of education must work towards the emancipation of teachers and students from labour, the dynamic, social, creative source of value in capitalism. In making this argument, I first establish the fundamental characteristics of academic labour. I then offer a ‘form-analytic’ critique of open access, followed by a corresponding critique of its legal form. Finally, I critically discuss the potential of ‘open cooperatives’ as a transitional organisational form for the production of knowledge through which social relations become ‘transparent in their simplicity’ (Marx, Karl. 1976. Capital, Vol. 1. London: Penguin Classics, 172).

Download this article from Learning, Media and Technology journal.

A pre-print can be downloaded from the University of Lincoln research repository.


Alternative Ways of Thinking the University


Last month, Dr. Sarah Amsler and Joss Winn presented papers at the EU-funded UNIKE conference: Universities in the knowledge economy: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific and Europe. Their panel focused on panel focused on ‘Alternative Ways of Thinking the University’ and the overall theme of the conference was as follows:

“What is the place of universities in the emerging ‘ecology’ of higher education systems that straddle industry, government and the public sphere? How are universities negotiating the demands placed upon them to compete in the global knowledge economy? What new subjects and spaces are emerging under the new conditions of existence for universities? How do academics, students, managers and policy makers make sense of these changes? Are there alternative ways of organising the university and its relations with society and if so, where are these being developed?”

You can read Joss’ paper on his blog and read Sarah’s paper here.