The familiar, yet strange, topological inversions and reversions of the flyped university

“Karl [Miller] turned his need for affection somehow inside out: to use a rather Midlothian word, he flyped it.” (Ascherson, 2014: 9)

“… [traditional realism’s] model of reality [is that it is] a dull independent state of affairs that the mind is forced to copy like a harassed student at some dreary provincial art school” (Harman, 2009: 112)

“There are clear and obvious connexions between the quality of a culture and the quality of its system of education.” (Williams, 1961: 145)

Allan Parsons: The Writing on the Milanese Wall (Redacted)


This will be difficult, slow, gradual, fragmented, tortuous and possibly torturous; and in need of revision and supplementation to overcome its limitations and confusions.

Is it simply to engage in a kind of defeatism, often confused with pragmatism, to believe that,

“Whatever you think about the changes to higher education that have been made in recent years, in particular the decision in the autumn of 2010 largely to replace public funding of teaching with student fees, this is now the system we’ve got.” (Collini, 2013: 3)

Do we, in fact, have a system? Rather, do we not have a proliferation of systems or a series of systems, arising from the break-up of a prior system, again one whose coherence should not be overstated and one that certainly should not be viewed through rose-tinted spectacles, or indeed specularised at all.

At a Symposium organised by Matt Charles held on 7 November 2014, under the joint aegis of the Institute for Modern & Contemporary Culture (IMCC) and the Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) at the University of Westminster, a number of pressing issues pertaining to those questions were raised for those partaking in higher education, whether as givers or receivers, in the UK, and elsewhere.


When are we, and where are we, now, here? Are we in a post-2010 UK  higher education system? It would seem not entirely. The spatio-temporal practices within the UK associated with asserting nationhood, in all its confusedness, mean that Scotland has desisted from imposing fees directly upon (domestic, resident, Scottish) students, continuing to rely on general taxation to fund higher education (for domestic, resident, Scottish students, but not for others), or, as Stefan Collini indicates, for funding teaching in higher education. The issue of the distinction between teaching and research, and research-intensive universities, forms the core around which another sub-system is being generated around another market, the market for research funding.

Already, then, do we not begin to see a spatially differentiated system (Scotland/England and Wales) articulated with a hierarchised system (teaching/research). Furthermore, the decision not to charge students directly, i.e. to indebt students individually, does not mean that the Scottish higher education system, or sub-system, is immune to the plethora of other contextualising pressures on higher education, including hierarchisation, both within any specific university (the teaching versus research split) or among universities (universities which are primarily teaching institutions versus research-intensive universities). So these differentiations do not constitute clear divisions. They indicate complicated entanglements. Both in Scotland and in England, as in many other countries, the funding of, and access to, higher education remain intractable problems.

Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel that there exists a peculiarly English moment for higher education within the spatio-temporal practices that continue to constitute ‘England and Wales’, replete with its Celtic marginalisation, within the British Isles. Such ethno-national marginalisation, which concerns cultural identities more so than racial ones, realises a further set of spatio-temporalising practices formed around processes of interiorisation and exteriorisation, inferiorisation and superiorisation, inclusivity and exclusivity, in whose rhetoric certain political parties seem more than willing to indulge.

This peculiarly English phenomenon might be said to articulate a number of elements.

First, it performs an elision of what is private with what is public, such that it becomes difficult to develop a clear position, one that does not involve being on both sides of a purported divide at once. This point has been explored by McGettigan, when he cautions that one cannot speak of a straightforward process of privatisation (Charles, 2012: 38). Nevertheless, one has to speak of ‘privatisation’, a process that might be deemed ‘privatisation by stealth’ (Coman, 2014). Rather, this process is a “double movement of the state-enforced marketisation of private charities and a market-driven governance of businesses” (Charles, 2012: 38). [1]

One question that may arise in this context is how this process within higher education relates to other private-public partnerships that occur in other spheres of economy and how this process relates to such ideological projects as the Cameronian Big Society and its predecessor, the Blairite Third Way, whereby a certain ethos of volunteerism (and voluntarism – a voluntary volunteerism) is enwrapped within a particular form of capitalism, thereby blurring discussions of ’the public good’ and the provision of public goods, on the one hand, and utility and instrumentality, on the other hand.

Second, it joins together, in a way that is difficult to fathom, a clear recognition of the social character of learning, and the necessity of a suite of para- or peri-educational institutions, such as libraries, laboratories, theatres (medical and dramatical), art galleries, museums, archives and so on, in the formation of elites, almost as if it were an accident of history unguided by educational philosophy or theory, on the one hand; with, on the other hand, an explicit instrumentalist philosophy of education which would seek to reduce learning and the learning environment, in all its variety and richness, to the text-book, whether print or electronic, in the class-room, whether physical or virtual, lodged within the social and spatio-temporal individualistic void that constitutes so-called distance learning, which is considered suitable for the mass or the masses, depending on one’s preferred term. A socialised, societal elite is produced in one realm, while a de-socialised mass of unconnected individuals is produced in another realm, both of which fall under the heading of ‘higher education’.

Third, this elision of public-private, in a particular form of understanding ‘the public good’ and distribution of ‘public goods’, combined with a (deliberate) failure to acknowledge the importance of the para- and the peri-educational learning environments, effects a denigration of the potential value of networked digital media. When introduced into an already rich and various learning environment, they can enhance the sociality of learning. When placed within a particular kind of distance learning, learning possibilities are reduced to educational technologies and are used to automate elements of teaching, on the on hand, and learning, on the other hand.

Fourth, the elision of public-private along with the reduction of learning potentials to learning technologies, permits a refusal to engage with those emerging educational philosophies, for example, connectivist and rhizomatic learning, that incorporate the wider, more open, more accessible (more aleatory, we might say) learning horizons that networked digital technologies allow. A logic is put in place that is increasingly abstract, technological and teleologic, a logic that is selectively applied to create distinct sets of learning environments and learning ecologies and which fails to recognise the simultaneous operation of a complex peri-educational learning environment, with its visible and invisible pedagogies (see blog posts on Bernstein).

Fifth, the learning environment of higher education has been developed through a sophisticated built environment (habitat), accompanied by a specific set of social rituals (habitus), which together form a complex set of spatio-temporal practices (habitus-in-habitat), through which higher forms of learning are enacted and group allegiances secured. Progression is only one of the dimensions of this habitus-in-habitat, yet that is the dimension that is over-emphasised, while the equally important social grounding through which such progress is achieved, and indeed is the forum that allows any phenomenon to be considered to constitute progress, is de-emphasised.

Sixth, given the particular admixture of existing learning environments, with the educational philosophy that they implicitly embed, and the explicit educational philosophy promulgated concerning learning efficiency and efficacy, along with the failure to contextualise digital technological possibilities as part of complex learning environments, not as substitutes for them, it is not surprising that the provision of ‘mass’ higher education becomes oxymoronic.

Seventh, three philosophies of education and learning seem to be at play, which are not in dialogue with one another, forming a set of incoherent systems and sub-systems, articulated around different worlds.

One takes advantage of embedded learning through habitus-in-habitat (learning as habit, habitual, regular, habituating), but does not make this an explicit part of its philosophy.

Another is an explicit, abstract, rationalist discourse (learning as abstract progression), which drives educational thinking but which fails to take sufficiently into account habitus-in-habitat.

The third engages with digital networked technologies and social media, as well as habitus-in-habitat, in order to consider learning as sense-making, as a set of inter-linked processes of multiple, shifting contextualisation (intercorporeal, intersubjective, mediated, digitised, networked, technologised).

This last approach brings to attention, and places in question, the assumptions embedded in the everyday practices of habitus-in-habitat, as well as questioning the rationalism of explicit instrumentalist educational philosophy, so that learning can be understood both as habit-forming and as habit-breaking, through recognising the possibilities arising from changing contextualisation.

Through this last approach, one might begin to touch upon the (intersubjective) ‘hidden curriculum’ which teaches habitus (Case, 2014: 6), awareness of which may allow us to alter habitus by recognising its relation to, and inter-dependence with, habitat, and both upon ‘habit’ in the form of ‘tradition’ or ‘custom’, both long-running and of more recent invention.

This is neither an affirmation nor a negation of Gary Hall’s (2009) concept of the ‘third generation university’, not least because the university is more than three generations old. Nevertheless, Hall’s thought is not without value. He suggests that the (not-yet existent) ‘third generation university’ is critical of “the processes whereby capitalist neo-liberal economics are increasingly turning higher education into an extension of business”, which Hall calls the second generation university (or the existent university); while it is also critical of attempts to return to the kinds of paternalistic and class-bound ideas which previously dominated the university, a condition that Hall calls the first generation university, although this is far from being the first generation of the university form in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), a university which Hall defines as being oriented towards an elite cultural training and the reproduction of a national culture (but which ’nation’ and during which time period?). [Hall’s is not the only version of a ‘third generation university’, See Variations on the theme of a third generation university]

1. ‘Marginalisation’

… but we digress; and this is not solely an English set of problems.

The symposium opened with David Blacker presenting a paper in which he outlined the arguments in his book, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame. While one would not expect David Blacker to be concerned with the specifics of the English (and Welsh) higher education system, perhaps he could inform us about some larger or more general trends affecting higher education across the globe.

In this presentation he informed us that he had taken the contrast between eliminationism and exploitationism from recent Holocaust scholarship.

In Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity, Daniel Goldenhagen defines the five principal forms of elimination as: transformation, repression, expulsion, prevention of reproduction and extermination. The important point about eliminationism, for Goldenhagen, is that it is integral to politics. Mass murder, Goldenhagen argues, should be understood as a political act. It is politicians who create the conditions for mass slaughter.

Now Blacker is not talking about mass slaughter. He is using eliminationism as a metaphor. It may be more appropriate to talk of liminalisation rather than elimination, elimination pushing inbetweenness towards death and non-existence. Liminalisation produces not a state of non-existence but a state of neither/nor-ness.

Rather than a walking dead, we might say that we still have a living population, but in its liminal condition it is continually oscillating, neither/nor-ing, (inter-)action reduced to vacillation, in-decision and in-capacitation.

Blacker suggests that the contemporary university, being so deeply implicated in the processes of the international financial system, which are unsustainable, and which makes university financing in its current form equally unsustainable, is incapable of being fixed. It requires starting afresh, but not in the sense of the creation of a market in higher education, such as suggested by the UK Conservative government.

While Blacker is pessimistic about saving the existing system, he is not pessimistic about the possibility of alternatives emerging.

2. ‘Containment’

To take the sequence of symposium talks out of order, Nina Power took as her frame of reference the student protests that occurred in 2010, opposing the introduction of a massive hike in student fees from around £3,000 per year to around £9,000 per year.

To the extent that the listener, attending to both Blacker and Power, might have experienced the latter’s talk as perhaps more bleak, it was because she seemed to be moving towards taking the process of liminalisation outlined by Blacker, where there remains some hope of returning to here or there (although if one is a post-structuralist, perhaps the liminal is where one wishes to be living, and writing, in the margins), towards one of incarcerated containment: one step closer to being eliminated; and one step further towards being exterminated.

Power places the body, in this case, the collective student body, which is still capable of collective action, as being susceptible, in the process of acting collectively, to the (inter-)corporeal incarceration of police socio-spatio-temporal practices, notably ‘kettling’. As Powis (2012) notes, following Lefebvre’s triadic scheme of representations of space (conceived space), spatial practices (perceived space), and spaces of representation (lived space), such phenomena as kettling are part of “urban public space [which, add. AP] is produced through the dual realms of representation (in law) and spatial practice (in the street)”, although as Powis also states, there is a need to recognise that such practices are “performative landscapes” intrinsic to the urban environment. Such a performative approach is necessary to counter the notion that ‘space’ is inert and is opposite to ‘action’.

Possibly more bleak that Blacker because Power presents a scenario whereby the participants in collective action, political in character, are reduced to ‘bare life’ or ‘mere capacity’, and indeed mere (non-oscillatory) in-capacity. In this conception of ‘here/now’, we may see the lineaments of the exercise of biopolitics as elaborated by Giorgio Agamben in, for example, Homo Sacer, whereby the political order is presented as being in an extended state of emergency by means of which a pre-juridical violence is enacted in the name of a sovereignty that is exempt from law, that is above the law, in Agamben’s discussion of the paradox of sovereignty.

“In his analysis of the contemporary political order, Agamben sees power work to reduce the human to bare life, a reference back to the Roman conception of homo sacer, a human being who could be killed without incurring legal penalty. Human life is thereby included in the juridical order as exception, as that which is exposed to the immediate exercise of power, to the point of death.” (Webb, 2005: 21)

In other words, Power, in characterising a particular moment in which we may still be encapsulated, may seem to open up the prospect that the process of liminalisation is being pushed through towards elimination and extermination, a prospect from which Blacker, ultimately, withdraws. This is not to suggest that Power thinks that such practices cannot be resisted, far from it, but that we are closer to that potential reality than we may care to think. [2]

3. ‘Regionalisation’

The emphasis on spatio-temporal practices and ‘nationhood’, it can be seen, is germane also to the talk given by John Beck and Matthew Cornford at the symposium. In their survey of provincial art school buildings, amongst which they include Bromley College of Art, Dover College of Art, Bilston College of Art, the Mid-Essex Technical College and School of Art, Moseley School of Art, Reigate and Redhill School of Arts & Crafts, Sidcup School of Art, Stroud School of Art and Thanet School of Arts & Crafts, amongst others, they came to the realisation that what they seemed to be creating,

“was a narrative about the transformation of public space in the UK, especially since the 1990s.” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 11)

and that they had become involved in examining how,

“the built environment of British towns and cities had been transformed in the last 20 or 30 years.” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 11)

One issue needs to be raised here, in passing, which is pertinent to the discussion of the overlapping and inverting topologies the the emerging higher education ‘system’ or ’network’. Given the above discussion, concerning assertions of nationhood, when Matthew Cornford states,

“This spurred me on to ask whether what had happened in Great Yarmouth was just a one-off or part of a national picture.” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 9)

which ‘nation’ is he speaking of?

Is this a discussion of the transformation of public space, and in particular the space of publicly funded educational institutions in the forms of ‘the art school’, not in the UK, but in England? All of the examples of art school buildings and towns cited above are in England. In a UK, metropolitan London-centred account, Scottish art schools would count as further examples of provincial art schools. Scotland, prior to the 1997 Scottish devolution referendum, was commonly and usually referred to as a ‘region’, a minor province, no doubt with its own provincial attitudes and values.

This is not to argue that Scottish public space is somehow exempt from the same process of private-public conflation as is England. It is to point out that Scottish art schools, such as Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art‎, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and Gray’s School of Art, and their buildings may not be part of the same dynamic as is apparent in English provincial art schools, a dynamic that is both cultural and environmental, in a property-centred view of environment, as built environment. Scottish art schools are fewer and further between and tend to be metropolitan in character, albeit that the cities in question (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen) are far smaller and far less populous than London.

It is also to suggest that the argument that art education holds an important place in cultural history of the UK (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 10) may be an over-generalisation. It is also to suggest, rather, that the art school curriculum (habit, convention, custom, ‘law’, ‘rule’ or institution) the art school building (habitat), the art student (habitus) and the ‘Art School’ as a socio-historical phenomenon and as a field of spatio-temporal practices within education, hold a prominent role in English cultural history, perhaps more so than in other parts of the British Isles.

On this basis, a substitution of signifier of geo-graphical/geo-cultural extent may be necessary in the following quotations,

“The idea of the art school permeated British culture to a large degree because there were so many, because they were available, and because so many people went there.” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 11)

“…given the important place of art education in UK cultural history” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 10)

“The art school is unique in British higher education.” (Frith and Horne, 1987: 27)

To point out that this is a more local history than suggested, not British but English, is not necessarily to indicate an imperial over-reach, although that may still be the case [3], but is more a question of precision, of being more precise about the extent of the phenomenon in focus. That such an issue of geographico-historico-national extent is a question of concern for historiography can be recognised from the following quotation:

“[Robert] Tombs confutes his fellow historians who insist that England should in the 21st century be denied a distinctive history of its own, but instead be subsumed into “British history”. England has been a sovereign kingdom for most of its history, and its relations with Scandinavia in early centuries, with France since the middle ages, with Spain and the Netherlands in the early modern period, and later with Germany and the United States, have been more important to English history than those with Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It is politically suppressive and historical cheating to devalue the study of distinctive English history, Tombs argues. No one would dare impose such cultural censorship on Ireland, Scotland and France.” (Davenport-Hines, 2014: New Review, 35)

4. The Idea of the Art School 1. The Art Student: Individual Autonomous Human Agency [4]

John Beck suggests that ‘Art School’ provided,

“an alternative to other kinds of education and other kinds of activity.” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 38)

He also suggests that Frith and Horne (1987) are interested in,

“the environmental and affective aspects of the local art school, and the way that ‘Art School’, as a term, carries a significance greater than the institution it actually describes: a sense of possibility or world view…” (Beck and Cornford, 2014: 8)

In terms of the emerging schemata being developed here, this may be to suggest that the ‘Art School’, as a socio-historical phenomenon, arises from the interactions among the art school curriculum, as habit, convention, custom, ‘law’, ‘rule’ or institution, the art school building, as habitat, and the art student, as habitus or way of acting and inter-acting in the world, with the world.

This phenomenological complexity, however, can be reduced or abstracted to any one of its constituent parts. In this way, rather than an emergent property of the interactions among art student, art school building and art school, ‘Art School’ can be reduced to one of its poles or elements, for example, to its habitus, the art student, and further to the art student as human agent. In short, a reduction can be performed to abstract human agency, as individual intention and volition, from habitus, as a field of responsive, inter-active complexity, in which intention is entangled.

Thus, Frith and Horne (1987: 27) suggest that “art school students discover a new identity”, and that for the art student “‘Art is everything. Art is Life'”. The relationship between the art school and the art world is intimate:

“Since nearly all practising artists do some teaching it can be argued that in Britain the arts schools are the art world.” (Frith and Horne, 1987: 29)

Furthermore, while there have been repeated attempts over the past one and a half centuries to harness the practice of the the art school, under the aegis of art and design education, to trade and industry, the idea of artistic practice, of art as a specific kind of labour persisted, leading to a distinction between ‘fine art’ and ‘commercial art’.

Within ‘fine art’, there was and is an insistence on, “spontaneity, on artistic autonomy, on the need for independence, on the power of the arbitrary gesture.” (Frith and Horne, 1987: 27) Nevertheless, Frith and Horne argue, the post-1945 art student is a marginal figure, and in that sense may be said to pre-empt the emergence of the more general liminalisation apparent in the 2010s, as discussed above.

That reduction having been effected, i.e. of the ‘Art School’ as socio-historical phenomenon to the figure of the art student as abstract form of human, volitional agency and intentionality, that figure can be then abstracted, and re-positioned. Thus, Foster (2008: 23) points out that,

“… once seen as a bohemian outsider, the artist is now regarded as a model of the inventive worker in a post-Fordist economy.”

Foster continues, citing Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello (2005), that,

“managerial discourse over the last two decades has promoted attitudes and attributes once associated with the artistic personality: ‘autonomy, spontaneity, rhizomorphous capacity, multi-tasking (in contrast to the narrow specialisation of the old division of labour), conviviality, openness to others and novelty, availability, creativity, visionary intuition, sensitivity to differences, listening to lived experience and receptiveness to a whole range of experience, being attracted to informality and the search for interpersonal contacts’” (Foster, 2008: 23)

This passage of ideas, as Foster notes, proceeds in both directions:

“Just as managerial discourse has assimilated artistic qualities in this manner, so some artists have embraced business models with a rigour that puts Warhol to shame.” (Foster, 2008: 23)

Such a condition has itself prompted artistic reflection upon the conditions of its own ‘labour’. Alberto Lopez Cuenca (2012: 5), for example, considers how artistic labour has changed under the financial, speculative and flexible conditions set by the post-Fordist New Economy. In such conditions,

“… contemporary artists, along with the rest of the work-force, commonly hold more than one job and accept hourly wage rates rather than annual salaries — circumstances that have led to the development of new forms of production and survival.”

Lopez Cuenca brings to attention the coexistence of divergent commercial and non-commercial artistic strategies. They range from the harnessing of a social work-force to be capitalised in the art market as relational art, on the one hand, to the articulation of self-managed, autonomous projects seeking to produce non-hegemonic social practices.

This heterogeneous set of artistic practices holds an uncertain relation to the logic of market capitalism. What remains to be analysed, in order to understand the current condition more fully, Lopez Cuenca argues, is the historically complex link between artistic labour and the conditions of production since the Industrial Revolution.

In other words, what is required is an understanding of the complex relations among art as a field of habit, custom, curricula, rules, laws and institutional forms, art practitioners (whether students or artists) as a field of habitus, and art school buildings, as a habitat, giving rise to determinate forms of art practice, such as the English ‘Art School’; in relation to the abstractions, exchanges and substitutions that permit commodification, financialisation and economisation within and across such practices.

5. The Idea of the Art School 2. The Art School Building: Private Property

If one reduction is towards autonomous, decontextualised, voluntaristic, human agency, the art student as habitus reduced to abstract, individual, voluntary agent, Beck and Cornford point out that another reduction is possible, and indeed is underway: from habitat, as complex environment replete with embedded knowledge, to abstract, private property. Once abstracted, such properties are then susceptible to financialisation and therefore ‘property development’, the art school building as habitat reduced and rearticulated within the distinct dynamics of property development.

Furthermore, Beck and Cornford argue, the purported characteristics of the abstract art student are transferred to the property, the buildings, in which those artists worked while students. This is particularly evident in the marketing of the former Saint Martins School of Art building on Charing Cross Road, London, which has become The Saint Martins Lofts whereby, in acquiring one of the loft properties, one would also acquire the cultural capital of the alumni listed on the page.

In general, the complex weave of communal practices arising through habit-in-habitus-in-habitat, and the ‘organic’, ‘critical’ and ‘reflexive’ development processes which they engender, are reduced to the intersecting mono-logics of ‘law’, ‘agency’ and ‘property’, which serve as the building blocks for culture-led redevelopment and regeneration. Rather than ‘Art School’ as a socio-historical phenomenon, there arises the ‘Cultural Quarter’, a private-property-led attempt to engender the habitus-in-habitat of long-gone Bohemian quarters, Beck and Cornford note. It should be pointed out that this habit-in-habitus-in-habitat is not a Heideggerean dwelling, but an active, ongoing creation and re-creation of social space through spatio-temporal practices, in a re-working of a Lefebvrian view of the social production of space through the critique of everyday life. If it is a ‘dwelling’, it is an uneasy one, always on the edge of eviction, a dwelling in the liminal-light. [5]

As Beck and Cornford (2014: 14) point out, by referencing David Hesmondhalgh and Andy Pratt (2005), the culture industries and cultural policy thinking incorporate many of the shibboleths concerning art practice and the artist, such as the Romantic notion of the individual, isolated genius; the belief that culture is a pure public good; the value of art is transcendent and is determined by experts; and the idealist humanist conception of the effect of art (that it is beneficial for the soul and  that it is a civilising force).

6. Where does that leave us?

To repeat the question raised much earlier: when are we, and where are we, now, here?

Needless to say, the destination is itself a point of departure.

While in some senses we may be in a post-2010 higher education system, it is no longer a UK system, and it is a system of systems and sub-systems. It may be considered a series of spatio-temporal practices operating at different speeds to create different domains. Nevertheless, it is one in which the knowledge embedded and encoded in habit, whether in the form of curriculum, custom, convention, institution, rule, ideology or law, needs to be considered and questioned alongside the knowledge embodied in habitus, whether in the form of stereotyped responses, inter-corporeal regimes, choreographed interactive fields or territorial sovereignty, and the knowledge embedded in habitat, however one considers such phenomena, for example, as nature-cultures, epistem-ontologies or as physical-virtual worlds.

This is the ground-less ground of our contemporary educational practices, in which we must constantly be vigilant, lest our inter-actions become void and we cease to learn.

But that begs the question: Who are ‘we’? Rather, how are ‘we’ constituted, and how can ‘we’ achieve knowledge sharing under conditions of reduction and abstraction to law, individuality and property?


[1] Collini (2013) has this to say about the issue of privatisation.

“At first sight, the distinctions between public and private institutions, and among the latter between those that are for-profit and those that are not-for-profit, may seem clear-cut. In fact both distinctions are rather complicated. Most of Britain’s older universities were originally chartered, autonomous corporations, but they are rightly regarded as public institutions in the same way that, say, the BBC is regarded as a public broadcaster, receiving the bulk of their funding from public sources and regulated accordingly. Private universities do not directly receive public funding and are, to a considerable extent, exempt from such regulation.”

“However, the distinction between private and public universities is becoming blurred, first in that some universities have since 2012 received very little in the way of direct government subsidy and are now heavily dependent on the income from loan-backed fees; and and second, in that approved private institutions can now get the greater part of their revenue from exactly the same source.”

[2] For an example of an inversion of such police kettling practices, see “Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC Davis”, which can be found at:

The dynamics of this film clip are discussed in Spatial Intervention: Five Moments from #occupy, which can be found at:

[3] Indeed, there may well be a case for arguing that it is both the strength and the weakness of ‘British’ cultural studies that it is quintessentially , and one uses this word not to mean ‘in essence’, ‘English’, i.e. concerning England and Wales, and primarily England, with its focus on ‘culture’, without reference to European thought, in the core readings of Hoggart, Williams and Thompson.

[4] This is a play on the title, “The Idea of the University”. There are two strains of literature using this title, the English one, following J. H. Newman, and the German one, following Karl Jaspers. The background to the latter strand is provided by such German philosophers and scholars as Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Friedrich W.J. Schelling, the founding fathers of the University of Berlin.

For examples of this double-stranded literature, see:

Anderson, R. (2010). The ‘Idea of a University’ today. History & Policy [Website]. Available at Accessed 1 November 2013.

Barnett, R. (2011). The Idea of the university in the twenty-first century: where’s the imagination? Yuksekogretim Dergisi: Journal of Higher Education. 1 (2), 88–94.  DOI:10.2399/yod.11.088.

Habermas, J. (1987). The Idea of the University – Learning Processes. New German Critique, 41, pp.3–22. Available at Accessed 22 June 2011.

Jaspers, Karl (1959). The Idea of the University. Edited by Karl W. Deutsch. Preface by Robert Ulich. Translated by H. A. T. Reiche and H. F. Vanderschmidt. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kwiek, M. (2006). The Classical German idea of the university revisited, or on the nationalization of the modern institution. Poznan, Poland: Center for Public Policy Studies Research Papers.

Newman, J. H. (1976, originally published 1853) The Idea of a University. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Scott, P. (1993). The idea of the university in the 21st century: a British perspective. British Journal of Educational Studies. 41 (1), 4–25.

[5] See, for example, the following texts:

Lefebvre, H. (2014). Critique of everyday life: the one volume edition. London: Verso.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of space. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sheringham, M. (2006). Henri Lefebvre: alienation and appropriation in everyday life. In Everyday life: theories and practices from Surrealism to the present. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Ascherson, N. (2014). Karl Miller remembered. London Review of Books, 36 (20), pp.9

Beck, J. and Cornford, M. (2014). The art school and the culture shed. Kingston upon Thames: Centre for Useless Splendour, Kingston University.

Boltanski, L. and Chiapello, E. (2005). The New spirit of capitalism. London, UK: Verso.

Brown, R. and Carasso, H. (2013). Everything for sale? The marketisation of UK higher education. London: Routledge.

Case, G. A. (2014). Performance and the hidden curriculum in medicine. Performance Research. 19 (4), 6–13. Available at: DOI:10.1080/13528165.2014.947120 [Accessed17 November 2014].

Charles, M. (2013). A is for apocalypse. Radical Philosophy, no. 186, 52–54.

Charles, M. (2012). Lines in class: the ongoing attack on mass education in England. Radical Philosophy, no. 176, 38–45.

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2 thoughts on “The familiar, yet strange, topological inversions and reversions of the flyped university

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