As neoliberal discourse redefines the university in market terms, the mission of this long-standing institution and the role that it plays in contemporary society are being transformed. With privatizing ideologies justifying cuts to public spending on higher education and curricula changing to meet the demands of the market, the university is becoming an increasingly inaccessible and elite space in which corporate interests suppress critical pedagogies. Once a pillar of democracy, the university is collapsing into a new, private mode of higher education that, by casting students as consumers rather than citizens, might actually debilitate the possibility of a real democratic future.
Yet, many are not content to let the university slip into complicity with the same capitalist forces that are producing the growth in social inequality evident in places like Canada, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. An especially powerful element in this movement to reclaim higher education in the name of democracy is the Campaign for the Public University.
Originating in the UK, this outstanding campaign believes that “the university is a public good” and essential not only for democracy, but also for individual fulfillment. Accordingly, it is committed to opposing the disappearance of the public university by offering a smart and easy-to-use website that assumes the ultra-vital role of keeping the public informed about the privatization of higher education, the impact it is having on society, and the attempts to resist and redress this transformation of a critical institution.
To update visitors about the current state of higher education, the Campaign for the Public University’s website provides intelligent videos and features as well as links to fantastic resources and events that are committed to the same oppositional aims as the campaign. The ‘Articles/Resources’ section, for example, is brimming with links to informative written pieces and podcasts discussing the state of university in this age of rising neoliberalism. It also presents the public with relevant government reports, helpful external sites, and a timeline that shows UK educational policy change and its impacts on higher education.
By making knowledge about the transformations and oppositional movements taking place in the university more accessible, the Campaign for the Public University helps citizens to be aware of and engaged in this issue so that they might resist the privatization of higher education. In doing so, this campaign brilliantly contributes to the project of bringing the university out of the cold grasp of neoliberalism so that it can once again take its place as the cornerstone of democracy.