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.