<agu> The Double Crisis of the University and the Global Economy

info at edu-factory.org info at edu-factory.org
Tue Dec 23 23:56:46 CET 2008

The following are some brief notes to initiate discussion on
the proposed theme for a zero issue of the edu-factory
journal. After some off-list discussion, it has been
suggested that the journal should be titled Edu-Notes:
Conflicts and Transformations of the University.

We would like to thank Augusto Illuminati and Nirmal Puwar
for their insightful contributions. The first point below is
an attempt to address the important comment made by Augusto
regarding the term financial crisis. We would also like to
open discussion regarding Nirmal’s concern about the
possible narrowness of the proposed theme. By putting
forward the following points for discussion we hope that
other members of the editorial board can intervene regarding
the appropriateness of the suggested theme for the zero

Ned Rossiter has also made a key intervention regarding the
tricky question of peer review and quality control.
Hopefully Ned’s provocation can attract some serious
discussion of this matter on the list. We do not expect this
is a question we will resolve quickly but it is a crucial
one to confront.

In this message, however, we restrict ourselves to the
question of the zero issue, since the preparation of a call
for papers, which should be briefer than what is outlined
below, is perhaps the most urgent issue to confront. 


As starting point, the zero issue would investigate the
characteristics of the global crisis. In mainstream
analysis, the current economic situation is described as
financial crisis. This idea is based on the classical
division between finance and real economy, which we want to
question. From this point of view, it is better to talk of a
global economic crisis.

We would base this analysis of the crisis on the
investigation of material changes. What are the nature and
the roots of the crisis? How is the crisis likely to affect
the production of knowledge and the organization of such
production around innovation?

What does it mean to refer to the crisis as a global crisis?
What are the different forms of translation of the crisis in
various transnational contexts? How are academic employment,
higher education export, higher degree research recruitment
or other aspects affected?

The focal point of the issue should be the nexus between the
global economic crisis and the crisis of the university. By
the latter, we refer to the end of the modern concept of the
university and the permanent crisis of its transition into
the new framework.

With regard to the university, this double crisis highlights
the difficulty of conducting an analysis in the classical
terms of the dialectic between public and private. The
corporatization of the university is not its privatization,
but indicates that its new form – that is, the form of the
crisis – must be thought beyond the state/private sector
For instance, some articles could focus on the student debt
system as one of the roots of the contemporary crisis. Such
an investigation might approach the operations of the
student debt system as paradigmatic for a sort of
financialization of the welfare system.

It could be interesting to analyze the relationship between
universities and collateralised debt obligations.
Institutional investors such as pension funds, insurance
houses and university endowment funds were among the most
important purchasers of these and other securitized
financial products. But they were also among the first to
become wary of such investments and thus their financial
decisions contributed to the onset of the crisis.

Another question concerns the role of ranking systems in the
determination and evolution of the double crisis. The
continued high ranking of securitized debt products by bond
rating houses like Moodys and Standard and Poors contributed
to the onset of the economic crisis. The global ranking of
universities by institutions such as Shanghai Jiao Tong and
Times Higher has become an obsession in higher education.
What are the relations and complicities between such ranking

In this framework, there emerge two important questions. On
one hand, it is necessary to ask how the global economic
crisis redefines the crisis of the university. On the other
hand, there is a need to inquire into the place and role of
conflicts in the nexus of this double crisis.

Finally, it would be interesting to discuss the temporality
of the crisis in relation to the temporality of the
production of knowledge. Does the traditional cycle outline,
which poses financialization as a final stage that follows
an expansion of material production, still apply? Or do we
have to investigate a new temporality of the crisis? What
does this mean for the temporality of conflicts, which have
been understood to follow a cycle of struggles?

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