Presentation at the IoE on the Co-operative University report

Tom Woodin kindly invited me to speak to my report Realising the Cooperative University at the Institute of Education, which I did last night, following the eminent Stephen Yeo and the redoubtable Mervyn Wilson.

A copy of my slides is available here: Co-operative University Presentation 12/12/2013

It was a great opportunity to share the work I had done, and certainly engendered a good debate.

in retrospect I probably said too much about the legal, financial and governance aspects of the report, and not enough about the values, the questionnaire and the possible futures for the Cooperative University. Even so, the necessary and sufficient definition of a Cooperative University is a sensible place to begin.

I am always impressed by the excitement and interest that the topic of a Co-operative University generates. Tonight was no different. However, the nature of the debate impressed on me that there is some distance to travel before a manifesto or business plan for a genuinely Co-operative university could be developed. Nonetheless, yesterday’s debate brought a few questions to the fore for me:

1) What is the contribution of the disciplines to co-operation? Can we map it and expand it?

2) what would a cooperative education strategy look like?

3) the moral and intellectual case for a cooperative university could be written in an afternoon. I suspect that the setting of objectives and the development of a business plan would not proceed so smoothly. How do we make the administrative side of the cooperative university part of the intellectual project?

4) The language of money seemed like anathema to many in the room. That’s okay if the plan is to start small, but if we want a cooperative university that can pay decent wages, we need to accept that capital does not a Capitalist make. Where are all the co-operative economists?

5) The notion of a Trust University is a great one. is it truly co-operative, though, or a reinvention of a different idea – the university as a commons? It sit sensible to rely on a legal formula to protect the identity and purpose of a university? Could the enlightened self interest of a co-operative equally protect the great civilising project of the university?

6) What kind of compelling case can we make for a massive research project that will allow us to build the intellectual and business case for cooperation in higher education?

Time for a Co-operative University – event 13/12/2013 London

Reposted from the Co-operative College:

A free seminar on the potential for co-operative approaches in higher education will take place on Thursday 12 December in Room 804 of the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, from 5.30pm-7.30pm.

Recent years have seen the dramatic growth of ‘co-operative schools’, which have adopted and adapted co-operative values and principles in working with key stakeholder groups such as learners, staff, parents and community. Co-operative and mutual models have also been developed across other areas of civil society including health, leisure and care. Given the dramatic transformation of higher education in recent years, the potential for universities to be remodelled along co-operative lines is being assessed. This approach offers a new take on debates over privatisation, marketisation and the defence of the ‘public university’. Our three speakers will examine these contested claims and outline ideas for a co-operative university, drawing upon historical and international perspectives.

Speakers at the seminar will include:

  • Professor Stephen Yeo (formerly of Ruskin College): The Co-operative University: Problems and Opportunities, some experience and ideas
  • Mervyn Wilson (Principal and Chief Executive, Co-operative College): From Schools to Universities – Co-operative Solutions?
  • Dan Cook (University of Bristol): Realising the Co-operative University?

Higher Education (HE) has become a massive global industry. On one hand HE now attracts significant public and private investment and the interest of policymakers in expanding the benefits it offers. On the other hand, casualisation of the workforce, spiralling fees and managerialism threaten to undermine traditional vocational and educational values. The co-operative movement’s commitment to education is a deep and long-standing one, yet co-operatives have only a minimal formal presence in the higher education sector. What are the factors acting as barriers and enablers to increasing co-operative presence in the Higher Education Sector? Focusing on the UK, Dan will examine the legal, financial and cultural factors that bear on co-operative presence in the Higher Education Sector. Dan will also explore some of the implications of his investigations for an increased co-operative presence in UK Higher Education, and indicate the future direction for inquiry.

For more information please see flier below. To reserve a place contact Tom Woodin at

Time for a Co-operative University event flyer 2013-12-13

Creating a Co-operative University in England

Co-operatives and Universities have a great deal in common: each integrates freedoms with economic health and social purpose; each has a tendency towards robust debate and internal self-criticism; and each tends towards institutional stability needed to plan and survive long-term.

A new report looking at the barriers to and enablers for the establishment of a co-operative University in England is now available.

Realising the co-operative university