Composting the Neoliberal University

The texts below were created by David Ridley through a ‘composting’ process, in which a talk given by Richard Hall on the University at the End of the End of History, based on his book, The Hopeless University: Intellectual Work at the end of The End of History, available to download now from publisher MayFly’s website, as well as the Q&A session following this talk with the Beyond Education editorial collective, was run through (not very good) transcribing software, and arranged in the form of modernist-style poems. Thanks to Richard for being open to having his words mangled like this! (Feature image by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash).

 the pandemic university
  
 there is this institution 
 right
 the University 
 that exists
 in the face of 
 intersecting crises 
  
 a hopeless space 
 it offers not redemption 
 for addressing crises 
 of austerity 
 of climate 
 of collapsing in 
 in in in
 into the nitrogen cycle 
 into ocean acidification 
  
 the ways in which those issues 
 intersect
 and reinforce each other 
  
 the pandemic university 
 is a space 
 for managing risk 
 for developing evidence 
 evidence to manage your rating 
  
 it’s about risk management 
 about appropriate project management 
 and effectively outsourcing solutions 
 to people 
 who generally look like 
  
 government regulators 
 government transnational organisations 
 like the World Economic Forum 
 or the World Bank
 or the IMF 
  
 making people 
 redundant 
 threatening livelihoods 
 ramping up 
 precarious work
  
 complete disregard for care 
 or care 
  
 complete abdication of duty 
 by institutional leaders 
  
 for people with caring responsibilities 
 people who are bereaved 
 people who are sick 
 people have long COVID 
 people who don't have a COVID-related illness 
 but are being forced back to work
 having to overwork 
  
 unions
 forced back into local negotiations 
 local branches 
 trying to lobby 
 or negotiate with management 
 quite often from a position of weakness 
 having to build an organising capability 
 whilst also having to manage stuff that's happening  
 restructuring 
  
 the political economics of it 
 the governance 
 regulation 
 and funding of it 
  
 institutions 
 struggling for funding 
 to keep going 
  
 having to self-report
 to the office for students 
 to trigger a regulatory requirement 
 based on cash at the bank 
  
 to go to the Department for Education 
 to have to restructure 
 to have a reproduction 
 of the kind of new public management 
 of efficiency drives
 of public private partnerships 
 and outsourcing 
  
 no sense of public education 
 or education 
 as a common good 
  
 in that space beyond 
 that common good 
  
 of being human 
 the alienated academic
  
 it's nothing to be asked 
 thank you ever so much and 
 it is nice to common 
  
 I’d like 
 just make a few points about 
 (Walsall 
 eats his tea)
 about the heat, the University
 the hopeless University 
 about
 intellectual work 
 at the end of the end of history 
  
 it's kind of 
 it's a bit of a thing 
 the alienated academic 
  
 I only deal in upbeat kinds of titles 
  
 my previous thing 
 was about the academic teacher 
  
 but now also thinking about it 
 in terms of the other work 
 that happens 
 in our institutions 
  
 that is 
 professional services staff 
 librarians
 technicians 
 students 
  
 about 
 how we work 
 effectively 
 becomes alienated 
  
 about 
 how the things we make 
 become alienated 
  
 from our relationships 
 from ourselves 
  
 are you productive enough? 
 are you working hard enough? 
 are you online late at night? 
 are you what your metrics look like?
 how are you developing your human capital?
  
 we become very 
 one dimensional 
 academic pelotons

 white saviours 
 white male saviours 
 the kind of high performing 
 overworking 
 male professor 
 or person 
 who demonstrates 
 those kinds of characteristics 
  
 who then is the one 
 who calibrates 
 the work of others 
  
 the academic pelotons 
  
 the high performing 
 over-doping 
 guy 
 who pushes for marginal gains 
  
 and then 
 and then everyone else 
 gets recalibrated around 
  
 as an apogee 
 of Lance Armstrong  
 is this all there is?
  
 regulation
 funding 
 the auger review 
 the role of apprenticeships 
 and skills development 
 the pandemic 
 the universe as well 
 which still lives 
  
 constant ongoing yellow glow 
 everything is media 
 on screen 
 a nightmare 
 all we want to do is hug 
 right 
 and actually we can't 
 can't get one 
  
 we are all knackered 
 we we want hugs
 and we 
 and we want some kind of 
 remission 
  
 what comes next?
  
 face to face 
 told to take leave 
 but our assessment periods are going on till summer 
  
 what about ref?
 and what about your career?
  
 all of this stuff is utterly exhausting 
  
 but at the same time 
 we've been told it's 
 it's not only business as usual 
 it’s an acceleration 
  
 vice chancellors are saying 
 ohh well 
 you affectively undertook a learning and teaching project 
 that should have taken you 
 you know 
 2-3 years to fully properly implement 
 you guys you guys and girls and girls did it in in whatever 
 you did in what two or three months 
 look at what you could do 
  
 no taking account of 
 no account of 
 what that means 
 for our own 
  
 the invasion of work 
 into our own lives 
 and houses 
 and into our own psyches 
 and bodies 
  
 embodied pain 
  
 it's all
 it's all this 
 all this all there is? 
 no utopias
  
 we’re not really interested 
 in blueprints 
 utopias 
 or a series of recommendations 
 for what the University 
 should look like 
  
 we’re interested in analysing 
 why we are so broken 
  
 collectively discussing 
 where do we want to walk to next? 
 what do we yearn for?
 and therefore 
 where are we stepping to next?
  
 thinking about education 
 at the level of society 
 being indigenous 
 being decolonial 
 being engaged 
 in movement 
 in this moment 
  
 composting
 braiding
  
 knowing and doing and being 
 in the world 
  
 might help us move somewhere 
 that is not simply 
 the reproduction of a world 
 based on economic value  
 beyond education
  
 a dialogue 
 around lived experiences 
 that connects 
 in particular
 that seeks to reconnect 
  
 differences
 we are the differences 
 but don't divide us 
 actually 
 they kind of bring us together 
 we’re unique individuals 
 but actually there are some commonalities 
 in the things the things the things 
 the alienated things 
 that make you feel 
 the whole system 
 is making a seal 
  
 and I think 
 there's a 
 there's a word 
 there has to be a way 
 in which we kind 
 in which we build 
 solidarity 
 with what's happening in schools 
 what's happening in healthcare 
 and social care 
 what's happening in communities 
 of people 
 being left behind 
  
 need to open out 
 open out those narratives 
 and give people
 the opportunity 
 to be kind 
 to be heard 
  
 amplifying those voices 
 is fundamental 
 is good 
 is beyond education 
 right 
 because 
 it is it is beyond 
 it is it is it is it is the common 

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