Discussion: For a co-operative
Centre for Educational Research and Development
University of Lincoln
• The University is being restructured through a neoliberal politics as part of a global pedagogical
• This project is aimed at the dispossession of free space/time so that all of life becomes productive
and available for the extraction of surplus value.
• This pedagogic project is recalibrating and enclosing the roles of teachers and students as
entrepreneurial subjects. In part it is also creating a surplus academic population, consisting of the
academic unemployed, the precariat, the outsourced, and so on.
• If this project is to be resisted then the premises that underpin the economic utility of higher
education as a positional good need to be revealed.
• If this project is to be resisted then the idea of academic labour that underpins employment in the
increasingly digitised and stratified universities of the global North needs to be critiqued.
• If this project is to be resisted then the marketised organising principles that underpin the idea of
the University need to be challenged.
• If this project is to be resisted then educators need to define structures and practices that reinforce
the sociability of everyday life, in order to realise new opportunities for pedagogic co-operation.
• If this project is to be resisted then histories and cultures of co-operative education need to be
revealed and critiqued.
The session will briefly position these headline statements about the idea of the University, and of
academic labour, in the UK. The session will then ask participants to uncover stories of how and where
pedagogy/educational institutions might be used for co-operation rather than competition. The session
will ask participants to discuss what a co-operative University might look like.
• Neoliberalism/Capitalism/Capital. A mode of
production and a social relation (subjectivity)
based on waged work and private property.
• Political economy of higher education
– Academic labour
– HEIs as means of (knowledge) production
– Markets and competition
• Resistance, alternatives, transitions.
Student as Producer
“The idea of student as producer encourages the
development of collaborative relations between student
and academic for the production of knowledge. However,
if this idea is to connect to the project of refashioning in
fundamental ways the nature of the university, then
further attention needs to be paid to the framework by
which the student as producer contributes towards mass
intellectuality. This requires academics and students to do
more than simply redesign their curricula, but go further
and redesign the organizing principle, (i.e. private
property and wage labour), through which academic
knowledge is currently being produced.” Neary & Winn,
Radical and realistic
“The Co-operative University appears like a radical
idea initially, but this investigation indicates it is a
realistic and desirable aim to adopt co-operative
principles in the running of universities... The
benefits are multiple, and I offer arguments and
examples that demonstrate the co-operative
advantage that universities might enjoy: more
committed staff, better connections with
community and business, and an organisational
character that puts education at its core.” Cook,
Dan (2013: 57)
What form does a ‘co-operative university’
take? What does it look like?
What are the values and principles of the
• self-help, self-
responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, solidarity
• Voluntary and open membership
• Democratic member control
• Member economic participation
• Autonomy and independence
• Education, training and information
• Co-operation among co-operatives
• Concern for community