Consuelo (Coni) Chapela

For what and for whom are universities? A Latin-American perspective

From the Islamic to the Latin American, I will make a brief historical tour of different university models, focusing on what and for whom they were at the time, arguing that universities are functional to hegemonic power thus, their autonomy only relative, but also they can breed critical thinking and resistance. I proceed to map a constellation of problems linked to the loss of words. Then, I address the polarization of today’s changing political world with some Latin American examples, arguing that autonomy, critical thinking, and community building threaten hegemonic power, thus, what remains of autonomy is in danger. I call then for a return to community service and the construction of research problems that benefit people. I propose to fulfill the responsibility of universities in the present historical turn, fighting, among others, the neoliberal bureaucratic-technocratic hooks, through the construction of academic communities of meaning.

Piya Chatterjee

Within and Beyond the Plantation: Imagining Anticolonial Feminist Pedagogies, Otherwise

My talk is a promissory note, a radical dreaming of the possibilities of a more liberatory educational space within empires, and in its so-called hinterlands and peripheries. Building on almost three decades of working in the public university (the University of California) and a private liberal arts college (Scripps College, the Claremont Consortium), I consider what it means to “cultivate the margins” (to use bell hooks’ terrific phrase) through antiracist and anticasteist feminist lens, and the pedagogies that these engender. Whether public or private, factory or village, the public university and boutique liberal arts college reflect two sides of the same coin.

I will also weave some ethnographic stories of work we/i have done through antiviolence Freirian/feminist literacy circles in eastern India during these years–as an attempt to stitch together hemispheric differences which appear incommensurable. After all, what is the imagination for? I will use the “plantation” as a realpolitik and a metaphor to think through the ways in which global crises are forcing us to radically revision what we “do” through capital, and maybe beyond capitalism. After sharing some stories about the alienations which shape both teaching and learning in these sites of white/brahminical-caste supremacies, I will share the generative insights of students/teachers as they design and act out different kind curriculum–whether this be the Nobody Fails at Scripps mutual aid movement that emerged during the Pandemic; or whether these rest within the acts, and dreams, of community leaders in the tea plantation belts of the eastern Himalaya.

Sheila Cote-Meek

Reimagining the Pedagogy of Truth

There is no doubt the world is changing at an unprecedented pace as we face the challenges of a global pandemic, climate change and the evolution of technology. Global crisis have impacted all our lives and have particularly impacted communities who have been traditionally marginalized in society where inequities and inequalities have been exacerbated. Within this environment Universities are challenged to maintain relevancy and are required to be attentive and responsive. Inevitably the question of What are universities for? is raised.

This presentation focuses on one aspect often associated with universities and that is the pursuit of truth, in essence the pursuit of knowledge. Through Debwewin, an Anishinaabe word describing truth, this presentation explores questions on what is truth? Whose truth are we talking about? And how can universities confront difficult truths?

Sajeev John

The Changing Landscape of the University and Science

I discuss how universities, where I have studied and worked over the past 40 years, have helped facilitate my scientific work and the evolving challenges experienced. These include the tension between pure and applied science, the challenges in funding and their influence on the discovery process, the effects of artificial metrics in driving the direction of science, and the evolution of classroom teaching and student expectations.

Kevin Kumashiro

Higher Education Must Step Up, as Must Academics

This presentation explores ten areas where colleges and universities are going wrong, particularly in the midst of several national and global crises; how such counterproductive actions reveal more fundamental and enduring problems; and what it means for academics to rise up in order to reframe and orient more decisively toward justice.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

CLosing the Marketplace: Restriction, Repression, & Retrenchment in US Higher Education

US universities once prided themselves with the notion that they were the marketplace of ideas… even unpopular ideas. Through decades of public disinvestment, neoliberal policy schemes, corporate over reach, overtly political leadership and racial backlash, ideas that challenge rightist ideology are now considered “woke,” “anti-American,” and indoctrination. This paper examines the way forces are arrayed against academic freedom and the free exploration and exchange of ideas.

Simon Marginson

How might we understand relations of power in worldwide university science?

The capacity to conduct research and science is grossly unequal on the global scale and a duopoly of the Anglo-American countries and Western Europe (with the first in the stronger position) have long exercised worldwide hegemony in systems, agendas and contents. However, since 1990 scientific capability has become increasingly pluralised on a national basis – while at the same time, networked global collaboration between researchers has partly slipped from the control of national science systems. How are we to understand the mix of the global and the multilateral, and the horizontal and the vertical, in world science? Which conceptual framework or theorisation best grasps the relations of power at work: north/south, neo-imperialism/post-coloniality, the centre-periphery framing in world systems theory, the institutionalists’ world society, the Bourdieu-ian polarity, etc.? Should we understand world science in terms of one of these hierarchies, or as a market, an arms race between competing nations, or a network? What are the prospects of a weakening of hegemony and hierarchy?

Liz Morrish

From neoliberalism to authoritarianism: universities, metrics, regulation and surrender to governmental control

For several decades, UK governments have attempted to impose the ‘discipline of the market’ on higher education. To this end, a series of regulatory measures have been imposed on the sector designed to elicit accountability for state funding of research and teaching. These metrics are aligned with similar measures which drive university rankings.

This dirigisme has failed to stratify the sector in quite the Darwinian way the government had wanted and ministers now feel empowered to intervene on course provision, curriculum, modes of teaching delivery and student admissions. In turn, some university managers are feeling emboldened to launch their own assaults on the arts and humanities and subjects which manifest a critical approach to prevailing structures of power. This slide into authoritarianism must be opposed if universities are to function as pillars of liberal democracy

Christopher Newfield

The University’s Four Futures; or, the Real Humanities Crisis and its Cures

The contemporary public university is not muddling through toward greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and educational quality, and its various difficulties have put it in direct competition with three other models of higher education. I’ll sketch these out and identify how they offer attractive alternatives to many North American communities. Using literary criticism as a case study, I’ll suggest a clear binary choice between fundamental transformation of existing universities or migration of many disciplines into other educational institutions.

Morgan Ndlovu

The place of the modern university institution in the colonial matrix of power

Universities are extensions of the societies in which they are located. As social institutions, they reflect and serve the social, political, and economic interests of the societies that produce them. The modern university institution is a product of a modern/colonial society. It is, therefore, given that, apart from being a microcosm of this society, the modern university institution is relied upon to provide the ideological and pseudo-philosophical justification for the existence of this society. Thus, its purpose is to reproduce the modern/colonial society in synchrony and diachrony hence its meanings and purposes cannot be articulated outside of one’s location and position within the structure of the modern/colonial society. In this presentation, I offer a decolonial perspective on the meaning and purpose of the modern university institution from the vantage point of my location on dominated side of the ‘colonial power differential’; a scheme that regulates being and becoming a modern/colonial subject in the modern/colonial society. Thus, I offer a meaning of the modern university institution arriving in the ‘zone of non-being’ as part and parcel of the colonial project rather than departing from the ‘zone of being’ as part and parcel of the modernity project.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith

What we can learn from developing different institutions in higher education

New Zealand universities have a protected status over the use of the term University. No other institutions are allowed to use that term to name themselves. I work at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, an institution of higher learning that began 30 years ago and was founded by my tribe Ngāti Awa and by my father who was, at the time, both the leader of the tribe and a Professor of Māori Studies. Awanuiārangi offers a whole suite of learning opportunities and qualifications including doctorate qualifications. It is not able to call itself a University and yet it is required by Government to be like a University but without the funding of a University or the deep infrastructure and modes of capital that support Universities. What can we learn about building genuine educational and institutional alternatives to Universities which are so deeply implicated in colonialism and the on-going marginalisation of Indigenous knowledge, language, culture and people? I will share some thoughts on this question.

Tom Sperlinger

Who Speaks in Higher Education?

This paper will begin with an account of a seminar I teach that is structured around two questions: Why would someone speak in class? Why would someone be silent? It will then explore my own involvement in two projects that, in different ways, imagine new beginnings in higher education: a new campus development in Bristol, which is part of a wider urban regeneration zone, and a new college in Wales dedicated to education during the climate emergency. By thinking critically about these examples, I will explore what forms of knowledge universities struggle to respond to or contain and whether they are still (in Adrienne Rich’s terms) places where “people can find each other and begin to hear each other,” including to find hope in the face of uncertain futures.

Joel Westheimer

Reclaiming the University in the Service of Democracy


More than 100 years ago, the philosopher John Dewey wrote that democracy must “be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” Today’s universities are failing to deliver. Universities need to reverse the trend that has them focusing exclusively on workforce preparation and the commercialization of knowledge and resurrect higher education’s public purpose in the service of democracy.