University from Below

Structural underfunding of higher education has induced universities to introduce market incentives and mimic the logic of corporate business to stay afloat. Teachers as well as students are the losers of this state of affairs, as is the society at large. On the one hand, the managerial pressure on lecturers, in the form of casualisation of academic labour, excessive workload and ever-increasing expectations about performance and publications have disfigured and impoverished the value and quality of teaching. On the other hand, students are primarily treated as consumers of knowledge, and as cash-cows. Worse still, they are imbued with excessive expectations about succeeding in a job market that produces endemic uncertainty and precarity.

In short, the university campus has been disfigured into a dystopian space, where knowledge is produced and consumed within regimented schemes that leave little to no space for curiosity, care-free learning, and genuine intellectual exchange. This is not to say that we are not expected –and even encouraged—to develop ideas, creativity and free thinking. But this is a pro forma manifest goal, without content. In reality, our labour relations leave little space for the realisation of the formal objectives of the university. The dependence of university finances on student numbers and external funding inevitability generates perverse incentives that undermine the spirit of the university and commodify higher education and our vocation.

But this is not a natural phenomenon. It is the product of intentional decisions and policy, which can be reversed as it has been formulated. It is far from easy but precisely for that reason every effort must be made to overturn this policy that is ruining the core arenas of intellectual exchange in modern society. The university has been captured by the managerial class and the only option we are left with is to start from the bottom-up, to recover the university we want. University from below is one attempt to reclaim real academic space where we can think collaboratively in a non-hierarchical and non-conventional way to fulfil the critical role in society. To question the premises of our university is to organise and to think it anew. To learn and agitate in order to galvanize the energy of students and teachers alike to build the university we want: an inclusive, egalitarian and democratic space of learning at the heart of society.


Programme SEM II 2021-2022
This programme will be updated soon

Fri. 4 February | Reading Circle Complaint!
Shared reading and discussion of Sara Ahmed's Complaint! with Larissa Schulte Nordholt.

Fri. 13 & 20 May | Poetry Lab I & II with Nanne Timmer
Part I: Protest, Play, Plagiarize

Programme SEM I 2021-2022

Wed. 29 September | Casual Leiden presents the University from Below
LAUNCH event with Casual Leiden, 0.7, collective brainstrom, music and snacks
19:15-20:30 Pieter de la Court SA49

Fri. 8 October | From Commodification to Neoliberalism and Beyond: The Unfolding of University Transformation

Guest Lecture by Wesley Shumar (online)

15:00-16:30 Online

Click here to watch the video of this event.

Wed. 13 October & Wed. 10 November | The University of the Future

Workshop Speculative Creative Writing with Isabel Hoving

17:00-20:00 Lipsius 148 - snacks provided

Participants work on their piece of short fiction between the first and second session.

Please sign up at

Fri. 29 October | Guerilla Cinema

Post-exams screening & discussion

Location TBA

Fri. 5 November | A Gentle Revolution: City Tour Through Leiden University's Activist Past

Historic city tour with Bart van der Steen & Pieter Slaman
15:30 gather at the Academiegebouw
In case of awful weather we convene in Lipsius 307

Tue. 30 November | Universities proclaim to want diversity; So why don’t they succeed?
Online lecture & discussion by LUDEN
16:00-18:00 online
ID: 612 1682 7970 - Passcode 7*X!qGr2

Promotional material - please share with your colleagues and students!

Flyer text for PDF.pdf
CL-posters UFB - V2.pdf
CL slides (1).pptx

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