Education as the practice of freedom, from past to future: Student movements and the corporate university

Anna Hush, Andy Mason


As contemporary universities become increasingly deregulated and neoliberalised structures, how is grassroots student political organising to adapt? What role could student organisers, working in coalition with academics, unions and communities, play in shaping the Future University? We argue that student organising has an even more crucial place in the site of the neoliberal university, working against both the corporatisation of the contemporary university, as well as rising neoliberal conditions in the broader communities within which tertiary education is embedded. These conditions, without doubt, have the potential to stultify student movements by burdening students with ever-increasing debt, and packaging degrees as a commodity with a market-determined value. However, we argue, the neoliberalisation of education also engenders an opportunity for students in shaping the Future University, through grassroots advocacy for staff working conditions, and for critical pedagogies that enable the integration of transformative social justice movements with academic theory. For us, the Future University is a space that nourishes critical and creative thinking, and produces students that are able to integrate theory with radical praxis. However, for this to be realised, the ideological function of the university, in justifying and naturalising hegemonic power structures, and the very meaning of public education, must be exposed and critiqued from the ground up.

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