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The Next Fifty Years: Imagining the Feminist University of the Future Professor Valerie Hey Professor Louise Morley Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) University of Sussex, UK

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The Next Fifty Years: Imagining the Feminist University

of the Future

Professor Valerie Hey

Professor Louise Morley

Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)

University of Sussex, UK

the story so far pollyanna and cassandra un do 3 rationalities
The Story So Far? Pollyanna and Cassandra Un/Do 3 Rationalities
  • 1960s liberal humanism/ meritocracy – renaissance or ‘the glad game’?
  • 1980s- present neo-liberal realism
  • Feminist Futures
  • ‘We inherit the future, not just the past’

(Barad, 2010: 257).

optimism and openings
Optimism and Openings
  • Expression of Welfare State/Democratic Impulse & Impetus
  • Overcoming of 5 evils including Ignorance
  • Role of (LSE) public intellectuals – for the solidary supportive state e.g. Titmus
  • Evidenced-based policy – para-utopian
  • The positive spirit of the age
  • Affirmed the virtues of a liberal education
  • Context of reform e.g. secondary education
  • Egalitarian – inclusive – women, working class & ?
values not value
Values, Not Value
  • The Robbins axiom:

‘ courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’

3 core values

  • Public value of higher education in producing ‘cultivated’ men and women
  • Securing the advancement of learning through the combination of teaching and research,
  • Providing a common culture and standards of citizenship.
a realm of free enquiry robbins
‘A Realm of Free Enquiry’: Robbins

…the essence of higher education that it introduces students to a world of intellectual responsibility and intellectual discovery in which they are to play their part … The element of partnership between teacher and taught in a common pursuit of knowledge and understanding, present to some extent in all education, should become the dominant element as the pupil matures and as the intellectual level of work done rises … …he is not being presented with a mass of information but initiated into a realm of free inquiry.

from social repair to cruel optimism
From Social Repair to Cruel Optimism

Lionel Robbins

  • Neoclassical economic theorist
  • No admirer of socialism or left-wing ideas more generally
  • A social repairer – no radical

Believed in:

  • Post- war competitive state/ reconstruction (at Bretton Woods)
  • Expansion for global human capitalism / wasted talent.
  • International Context- visited universities/ colleges in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland/ Longer visits to the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • N.B.
  • 1963 UK had quarter of a million students (free)
  • Currently 2.5 million (consumer pays).
  • Robbins recommendations implemented by Wilson’s Labour Govt.- from 1964.
value not values
Value, not Values
  • Robbins’ pronouncements on the nation’s ‘needs’ and social benefits = instrumentalisation of knowledge.
  • ‘Equality of opportunity’ and ‘cultivated men and women’ BUT
  • Education required a quantifiable use value.
  • Cast new universities in same mould as existing elite.
  • HE now re-cast as a private investment in human capital and as contributing to economic growth (Willetts, 2013).
from meritocracy to market
From Meritocracy to Market
  • Robbins Report = mitigated inherited stratification/ hierarchy among institutions.
  • Today higher education re-imagined as a driver of inequality, rather than a vehicle for social mobility.
  • Changes designed to create hierarchy and reinforce divisions.
  • Expansion = Privatisation.
rabid re imaginings
Rabid Re-Imaginings
  • Market competition and the support of for-profit higher education, which were not part of the Robbins agenda (Holmwood, 2013).
  • At the moment the waters around higher education institutions are so full of eager predators may suggest, even to the most naive, that they have been aroused by the scent of profit (Collini, 2013).
gender in robbins
Gender in Robbins?
  • Gender as Description = Demographic Variable
  • Women as reserve labour force
  • Women excluded from process- only 2 women members of 12-strong Robbins Committee

(Dame Kitty Anderson, D.B.E. and

Miss H. L. Gardner)

confounding cassandra the law of the unintended consequence
Confounding Cassandra? The Law of the Unintended Consequence

Access to higher education for women:

  • Spearheaded staking political claims;
  • Demanded new forms of knowledge and pedagogy;
  • Facilitated entry into professions;
  • Introduced Curriculum innovation e.g. women’s studies;
  • Strengthened the women’s liberation movement.
widening access but deepening divisions
Widening Access but Deepening Divisions
  • 4% of UK poorer young people enter higher education

(David et al, 2009; Hills Report, 2009).

  • 5% of this group enter UK’s top 7 universities (HESA, 2010).
  • Universities = hereditary domain of financially advantaged (Gopal, 2010).
  • Opportunity hording by privileged social groups? (Morley, 2012)
resistance imaging alternative universities
Resistance/ Imaging Alternative Universities
  • Tent City University/ Bank of Ideas, London, Occupy Movement, UK

(dreaming another world awake)

  • Unitierra, Mexico

(de-schooling, community projects) 

  • UNILA (University of Latin American Integration), Brazil.

(state finance for LA issues)

  • QUEST University, Canada

(private, inquiry-based, block teaching, no departments).

imagine the feminist university of the future
Imagine the Feminist University of the Future?
  • Move beyond critique and into futurology.
  • How would a feminist university be different from current models in terms of leadership, curriculum, pedagogy, values, learning landscapes?
the feminist university of the future needs to
The Feminist University of the Future Needs to...
  • Value, nurture and respect women
  • Stimulate mass autodidactism?
  • Provide MOOCS for you!
  • Encourage Pop up discourse
  • Be remade anew with a habitus that is non-alienating and generative for all who work, teach and study there
  • Be a safe, culturally and ethnically diverse, space.
  • Generate knowledge fit for a moral purpose of ‘doing no harm’
  • Be gender free. OFFEM with pazzaz!
follow up
Follow Up?
  • ESRC Seminar Series:

‘Imagining the University of the Future’

  • Special issue of Contemporary Social Science (6:2) 2011: ‘Challenge, Change or Crisis in Global Higher Education?’
  • Morley, L. (2011) Imagining the University of the Future. In, Barnett, R. (ed) The Future University: Ideas and Possibilities. London: Taylor and Francis: 26-35.