The chapter entails a reflexive, autoethnographic approach to think through some of the perceived developments in global academia, especially in terms of time and workload in the light of demands of academia, past and present. The author takes empirical data and substantiations from his own teaching experiences in the Netherlands and frames a cautious hope for a future of academia on the metaphor of the slow-food movement which was started in Italy in the mid-1980s.
Academics world-wide experience the daily consequences of the sell-out that neo-liberal universities euphemistically frame as a combination of effectiveness, efficiency and excellence. In this contribution I use fiction, and in particular John Williams’ recently rediscovered novel Stoner, to illustrate how painfully tangible these effects become in daily academic practice. The Stoner book shows the imbroglio of an aspiring American literature professor, whose career is presented as a symbol of the increasing academic depreciation of knowledge and Bildung. I argue that the literary quality of Stoner and other ‘academic novels’ can better than any sociological study convey the detrimental consequences of the unhappy marriage of ignorance, measurability and accountability that reigns today’s universities. Sparked by an auto-ethnographic account of academic quality measurement I plea for maintaining what is still left of ‘academic passion’, hoping to prevent academia and its inhabitants from suffering the same tragic fate as many a protagonist in academic novels.
The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the importance of the liberal arts model as the most suitable to fulfil the potential of Bachelor studies, as well as argue that the moral element as part of any quality education will be crucial for the future challenges that Europe faces. One of the aims of the European Union educational policy has been coordination and synchronisation of its diverse systems, in order to promote student and academic exchanges and diploma recognition. This became particularly poignant after the fall of communist regimes in 1989 when a great diversity of university systems existed across the continent. The Bologna Declaration signed in 1998 introduced a ‘credit system’ where each course taught at any university would be easily transferable to another university in another country. This has been hailed as great success, but it has not materialised in its envisioned potential. The reformed undergraduate education, refurbished through the liberal arts model, would assure not only education with depth and breadth but also the moral aptitude and the cognitive capacity of students, enabling them to confront an uncertain future. The Bologna Declaration of 1999 allowed the Bachelor’s-Master’s division; it is time, this paper argues, to allow the Bachelor’s stage to fulfil its full potential.
Written from an autobiographical perspective, this chapter describes experiences of being an ‘international academic’ during the radical transformation of university life into a system that is usually referred to as ‘neoliberalism’. Taking up some of the ideas of Baumann and Donskis (2013) regarding ‘liquid evil’ and the liquidation of the humanities, the emergence of ‘audit culture’ as serving an autopoietic technocracy is being analysed as part of a stroboscopic experiment that has led to the gradual destruction of the university. First hand experiences from the Dutch, British and German universities are compared to argue that although one might be inclined to treat the entire process as completely determined and thus inevitable, fragments and smithereens of resilience might also be considered – and in spite of the otherwise justified pessimism – as moments of disclosure of a possible saving power.
Under current conditions, it seems not enough to construct a plea for ‘slow science’. Temporalities of academia under tina require close scrutiny in order to bring out the time regimes of academic life. Economy, efficiency, and effectiveness have produced measures by which not only work processes are uniformized and controlled, but especially the design, the character, and the pace of work, including the embodied experience of working. Consequently, (academic) work determines a lot of other aspects of our existence and it tends to uniformize work load as a given. The image arises of not only 24/7 availability for academic work, but the inevitability of compliance to working in individual bubbles of time control, causing a narrower focus for ‘the academic’ and possibly less space for the rhythms of academic creation and creativity. Autobiographical ‘vignettes’ illustrate this development, highlighting the working of regimes that are not questioned on a daily basis.
This chapter was written in the spring of 2016 and discussed during one of our last meetings as a group with a drive to produce our book ‘on academia’. Leonidas Donskis received comments to this chapter, but did not manage to digest these. We left the chapter as it was, with some minor editorial changes. Actually, thinking about educational dystopia is our common project, exactly to help raise discussion about what can be termed the post-academic university. Towards an Educational Dystopia? is thus a root piece for this book.1
This chapter considers a variety of materials that make clear the absurdity of educational processes in divided societies in which institutional processes relating to the public value of economically powerful groups take precedence within a state apparatus that must constitute the appearance of an equality that is everywhere disavowed via the effects of different distributions of capital. What is clear is that those whose social conditions mean they require the most educational action get the least, and that the education of the poor tends to be poor education.
This chapter explores circumstances and opportunities that mark the internationalisation of European Universities after the Cold War. It reports the results achieved by the European human capital strategy with a specific focus on the Erasmus mobility impact on young generations. It expands the analysis to transnational research and networks as modern methods of work for academic investigation. Then, the article highlights some crucial aspects of the debate on the social role of Higher Institutions, how disciplines should complement education, and University potentials implemented in support of their social engagement. Particular relevance is given to the internationalisation of Higher Education Institutions in years characterized by globalisation. By affecting national policies of education and research, its inputs contribute, in fact, to melt the homogenisation of cultures and languages promoted in the last two centuries. By contrast, this process generates tough resistances, which threaten the transnational education under construction. Subsequently, it is widening the gap between mobile and sedentary educated people. This may produce social conflicts with unpredictable impacts on how knowledge should be constructed, with the risk of stifling the role of Universities as laboratories of universal culture.