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Edited by Des Freedman and Michael Bailey

The University as a centre of inquiry, research, teaching and publishing is one of the defining institutions of society. It helps to produce the knowledge on which elites depend as well as the capacity to challenge elite power. The University has long had a contested relationship to power and authority, providing both a legitimation of the status quo and independence from it, capable of both instrumental thought and critical debate. While sometimes profoundly conservative, the autonomy and independence of the University within the existing power structures is an essential part of the development of an effective challenge to them.

Today, the public university is under threat. The deficit has provided the government with an excuse to radically restructure the funding, governance and mission of higher education. Tuition fees have been trebled, teaching grants slashed, ‘business-friendly’ courses praised and the private sector encouraged as a supplier of higher education. These developments are likely to diminish the sector’s already limited independence and its capacity to research and teach outside the framework of capitalism and corporate power. The consequences of the decision in 2008 to move universities into the remit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, of the 2010 Browne Report into university funding, and of 2011 white paper on higher education will be to turn the University into an extension of capitalism.

These developments have been fiercely contested and the ‘reform’ project, as a whole, is far from stable. This section of OurKingdom is dedicated to analysing whether and how higher education is being subordinated to market logic, to assess the campaigns that have emerged in relation to recent developments, to explore alternatives to the market, and to consider the changing experience of university education from the perspective of both staff and students. We hope that it will contribute to what we see as a growing commitment not simply to defend the status quo but to re-imagine a role for the public university as a cornerstone for building an educated democracy and a just society.

Capitalism and the University: the debate ends, the struggle continues

After the tuition fee protests, before the market-friendly White Paper on Higher Education was silently abandoned, there was a crucial space for reflection on the English university. Was it facing a neoliberal attack? Or essential reform? What was the ideal university? And how could it be realised?

Science and the corporate university in Britain

The instrumentalisation of research and successive governments' preoccupation with 'impact' have gradually eroded the independence of British academia. Business and politics alike are narrowing funding and skewing outcomes.

The new director of the London School of Economics must put students first

Following the resignation of financial man Howard Davies, the appointment of radical academic Craig Calhoun as director could signal a sea change for the London School of Economics, hopes a Student Union sabbatical officer.

Should the head of a top UK university be overseeing NHS privatisation on the side?

The track record and ideology which won Malcolm Grant the chair of the Health Minster's NHS Commissioning Board are the very same reasons students have rejected his leadership of University College London.

Fred Halliday was right: The LSE, Gaddafi money and what is missing from the Woolf Report

Fred Halliday has been vindicated in his long battle with the LSE over taking Gaddafi money. But the underlying reason - corporate and government pressure on the university is not addressed by the Woolf Report into the scandal.

Why we should resist the idea of student as consumer

What are the consequences of the marketisation of higher education in England? Our consumerist society may get the education it deserves, but will it be the education it really wants or needs?

Higher education under siege: challenging casino capitalism’s culture of cruelty

Ongoing education reforms in Britain and the US are set in the context of wider issues concerning marketisation, neoliberalism and political protest.

The Assault on Universities: essays from the frontline of England's higher education sector

The privatisation of English higher education is bitingly analysed in this essential collection of essays. Does the book mark a new wave of opposition to corporate ideology from within England's universities?

2012: a ‘Big Bang’ in higher education?

This year will be a watershed in the transformation of universities from communities of scholars to cheap degree shops competing for ‘customers’ - unless concerted and localised resistance can prevent it.

The Social Science Centre: a radical new model for higher education

A co-operative education centre is opening in England, with no fees and no formal distinction between students and staff. A radical alternative to the Coalition's marketisation of higher education, the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, is set to open in the next academic year.

The alternative white paper: in defence of public higher education

Hundreds of academics have signed a new paper arguing against the UK government's higher education reforms. Universities are not about private benefit alone, the paper argues - democratic public values should be at their heart.

Big Tobacco and data nabbing: when freedom of information reduces transparency

A tobacco corporation is attempting to access confidential data on teenagers' smoking habits, obtained by university researchers. Just one case where Freedom of Information benefits companies against the public interest.

So long, Free Hetherington: a tribute to the historic occupation at Glasgow University

Already this academic year student activism in Scotland is flourishing again. It owes a huge debt to the historic occupation of Hetherington House. Two students recall the seven-month occupation, which ended last month.

What is research for? celebrity, targets, exchange value... or knowledge?

The British research culture has shifted. The obligation to publish, the obscure ranking system, the need to deliver 'value for money', together raise a fundamental question: What is the relationship between research and the neo-liberal order?

Get your politics out of our research! Universities fight on against 'Big Society' plans

UK universities are under pressure to research one of the government's key policy ideas - but they are resisting. The campaign to remove the 'Big Society' from the AHRC's research delivery plan is crucial for the integrity of higher education

Women - Universities and Zombies

Do we really need to talk about women in Universities? The answer is YES. Pay gaps, and the marginalisation of women, are visible symptoms of a bigger set of ongoing problems.

The history of higher education reform, and the Coalition's betrayal

The government's higher education proposals would see a fundamental reversal of the direction of reform embarked upon in the post-war period

All Power to the Students?

The Coalition plans to put "students at the heart of the system" with its higher education reforms. But the White Paper proposals would lead to the disempowerment of students, re-modeling them as consumers of education, no longer part of the learning process

Lectures from a Spin Doctor: a Nato strategist's position at a top British university

When a Nato spokesperson is lecturing at one of the top British universities, it's clear that the autonomy of higher education is under threat

Business first, students second: the future of English higher education?

The Coalition's proposed reforms to English higher education treat students as customers, and education as a financial transaction where pursuit of profit is the only determinant of value

The AHRC and the 'Big Society': reflections on the neo-liberal takeover of the academy

Senior academics across the UK are taking action against the politicisation of research, in response to the announcement that Cameron's 'Big Society' is to be a research funding priority for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Is this the beginning of a wider resistance from within the institutions against the neo-liberal attack on British universities?

First as Farce: higher education, the profit motive and the New College of the Humanities

The launch of the for-profit ‘elite’ university, the New College for the Humanities, must be understood in the context of the Coalition’s wider programme to marketise higher education. The first article in OurKingdom’s series 'Capitalism and the University' analyses the big picture

Has England's higher education come to this: “I was personally punched and thrown down the stairs by officers.”

The London police defended the Minister of Higher Education by showing that even universities are to be subject to the criticism of truncheons. The Liberal Democrats of all parties should oppose this.

New College disaster and the challenge of A.C. Grayling

In a bold new initiative, philosopher-proprietor A.C. Grayling has launched a for-profit university amidst a storm of opposition. Could it be that the prospectus is misleading, and the venture undemocratic and wrong in principle?

New College for the Humanities: Emperor's New Clothes

A team of celebrity academics, led by philosopher AC Grayling, are launching a new British private university, charging 18k per year. Far from its stated aim of helping save the humanities, the NCH will accelerate the move in the UK towards an educational culture of elites serving the elite

A Radical Manifesto for Higher Education

Our universities are under attack, with the Coalition determined to throw them to the mercy of the market. Support is growing for a Manifesto for Higher Education that sets out demands on universities and the government, but will it reignite the student movement?

'No Confidence' in the Coalitions' policy for higher education

A campaign is launched to express 'no confidence' in the British government's policy on higher education. Does it go far enough?

MP attacks LSE professor over feminist political theory course

During a Commons debate on Human Trafficking, Denis MacShane MP accused professor Anne Phillips of filling the minds of her students at the LSE with 'poisonous drivel' concerning the difference between waged work and prostitution

The Oxford Debate on Higher Education

The complete Oxford Debate on Higher Education, all six articles as featured on openDemocracy.net OurKingdom.

David Willetts is trying to conjure away the dangers of higher education reform with the magic word 'choice'

There are many different kinds of magic trick, but for all of them, one technique is the most important: misdirection. Of the many practitioners of such magic, David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, is one of the best.

Britain, greet the age of privatised Higher Education

Let’s be clear about what has happened. The House of Commons has not voted only for a rise in tuition fees in English universities. It has voted for the privatisation of British Higher education.

Universities in an age of information abundance

The current debate over higher education funding in the UK ignores the crucial point that information is becoming cheaper and easier to produce, challenging the monopoly of the university in public life.

Elitism, Philistinism and Populism: the sorry tale of British Higher Education Policy

It can hardly be a coincidence: a key government adviser proposing a massive rise in university fees just as the sector is reeling from the news of enormous imminent cuts.
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