ISRF-funded project on Co-operative Higher Education

Co-op HE Framework Poster Just over a year ago, SSC Scholars, Joss Winn and Mike Neary, received funding from the Independent Social Research Foundation to develop a ‘model for co-operative higher education’. This work has been documented on the SSC website over the past 13 months. The formal period of the funded project has now ended and the ISRF have published an overview of the project, its outputs and outcomes. As planned, we will also be discussing what we have learned from this research and thinking about how it can be applied to the Social Science Centre at our AGM on Saturday 7th May.

You will see from the ISRF website that our work continues on the theory and practice of co-operative higher education. Mike and Joss have recently been funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to focus specifically on co-operative leadership and governance for higher education. We encourage anyone who is interested in this work to contact us or subscribe to the discussion list and join 90+ other researchers, students, co-operators, and activists. Please do introduce yourself!

Co-operative higher education conference paper and poster

SSC Scholars, Mike Neary and Joss Winn recently presented a conference paper and poster at the Co-operative Education conference in Manchester. These have been produced as part of our research project that aims to develop ‘a model for co-operative higher education.’

The paper and poster will also be presented at the International Co-operative Alliance’s research conference in May, and the Universities in the Knowledge Economy conference in June.

Download the paper (PDF). Comment on the paper (Google Docs)

We’d really appreciate comments on the framework we have developed in the paper and is illustrated below.

Framework for Co-operative Higher Education (click to enlarge)

Framework for Co-operative Higher Education. Design by Sam Randall, student at University of Lincoln.

Workshop – Transnational Solidarity for Co-operative Higher Education

Beyond Public and Private: A model for co-operative higher education.

Funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF).

Workshop: Transnational Solidarity for Co-operative Higher Education

Venue: Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln, LN2 5AX.

Date: Friday 29th January 2015, 10am – 4pm

RSVPinfo@socialsciencecentre.org.uk

This workshop will focus on co-operation among co-operatives and other organisations providing higher education. Broadly, we aim to:

  • Identify forms of existing organisations and networks which would be supportive of co-operative higher education and possible sites for the creation of a transnational network for co-operation.
  • Establish an outline for a transnational co-operative higher education network.
  • Identify the features of a transnational organisation for co-operative higher education both in the national and international contexts.

A summary of what was achieved in previous workshops (pedagogy, governance, legal frameworks and business models) will be presented to you at the start of the day. We have suggested a structure for the solidarity workshop, together with a number of key themes to be addressed and some recommended reading material.

An important principle of the work we are doing together is that it should involve collaboration and co-operation at all stages, so we are very keen for your suggestions as to how the workshop should be organised as well as important matters you feel need to be discussed, together with suggestions for further reading. We are aware of the crucial importance of cultural difference and the need to learn from a variety of local and national approaches in the global north and south.

Themes

Key suggested themes to be addressed at this workshop include:

  1. Key international organisations within the co-operative movement (e.g. ICA, CICOPA) and supporting organisations (e.g. ILO, UN, UNESCO)
  2. Existing models of transnational and international organisations for higher education (e.g. European Graduate School, UN University)
  3. Challenges to transnational solidarity (e.g. language and cultural differences, colonial legacy, stages of capitalist development)
  4. Models of transnational solidarity (e.g. NGOs, IGOs, ‘social movements’)
  5. Features of transnational organisations for co-operative higher education.

Reading

Some reading is suggested to inform your thinking about these issues before coming to the workshop:

Brown, Leslie and Winstanley, Viola (2008) Co-operatives, Community, and Identity in a Globalizing World pp.151-178.

Callahan, M. (n.d.) Zapatismo Beyond Chiapas 

UNESCO Education Strategy 2014-2021

ICA Blueprint 2013 (Chapter 1: Participation)

Timetable

We are proposing a ‘roundtable’ format, but welcome suggestions on the day for how we might organise our time together.

10.00 – 10.15 Coffee

10.15 – 10.30 Aims for the day

10.30 – 11.00 Presentation – Summary of previous workshop outcomes.

11.00 – 12.30 Roundtable discussion:

12.30 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 14.15 Roundtable discussion:

14.15 – 14.30 Break

14.30 – 15.45

15.45 – 16.00 Wrap up and action planning

Online Focus Group

We are organising an online focus group for those of you who cannot attend the workshop. This will be on February 11th 19.00 – 20.30 GMT. More details will follow on how to join the online focus group. Please let us know (info@socialsciencecentre.org.uk) if you wish to join it instead of this workshop.

Notes from the ‘Legal’ workshop for Co-operative Higher Education

Beyond Private and Public: a model for co-operative higher education [ISRF]

Croft Street Community Centre, 9th October 2015, 10-4pm

Cassie Earl, Joss Winn, Rory Ridley-Duff, Ian Snaith, Martha Vahl, Gerard de Zeeuw, Kai Haidemann, Mike Neary, Tara Mulqueen, Pablo Perez Ruiz,

This roundtable discussion began with an overview about the frame of reference for the research project, with a review of the two workshops that have already taken place, on pedagogy and governance, setting the topic for this workshop on legal arrangements for co-operative higher education into context. We agreed to consider the three possible forms of co-operative higher education already established as an organising model for co-operative forms of higher education: conversion, dissolution and creation (Winn, 2015)

There was a strong sense that higher education needs to be embedded within the co-operative movement as one of its core values, not only to support commercial activities but as foundational aspect of co-operatives as a social movement and a significant matter for a ‘new co-operativism’.

This sparked a discussion about whether we use the title of ‘university’ or ‘higher education’ for our new institution and, in what was to become a main theme for the day, to what extent we work inside or outside HEFCE frameworks. We heard about the Architectural Association School of Architecture, which validates its undergraduate programmes through RIBA and post-graduate programmes through the Open University. It is able to flourish as a higher education institution due its very credible reputation and the quality of the students it produces. We also heard about alternative forms of co-operative education in Argentina that had emerged after the economic crisis in the 1990s and in opposition to the increasing marketisation and privatisation of schools.

Working from recently published HEFCE documents we looked at the requirements to become a HEFCE approved university. This route to becoming a ‘university’ requires a threshold level of higher education students, currently fixed at 1000, and already attained degree awarding powers. An attraction of the HEFCE framework is the funding that is associated with the student numbers.

We thought about credible organisations deeply embedded within the co-operative movement, the co-operative College and the International co-operative Alliance, which might become primary coordinating institutions based on the HEFCE model of ensuring quality assurance and good governance, organised around a confederated secondary network of co-operative higher education centres/universities.

We agreed that there was no legal reason why a co-operative university could not be established under the HEFCE regulations, via the established gateways. A legal framework could be created that would meet HEFCE stipulations concerning quality, financial sustainability and governance. There was a concern about the amount of time it takes to be recognised as an HE provider by HEFCE, currently at least four years, and the politics of dealing with HEFCE, not least because of its currently neoliberal agenda and the regulatory audit culture that it creates. It was mentioned that all of the organisations associated with the governance of HE in the UK are currently under review by the Conservative Government, including the Funding Councils and the QAA, and may not exist in their current form in the near future.

There was a greater interest in developing an alternative form of co-operative higher education that was not dependent on HEFCE validation and funding. We learned that there are validating bodies, other than HEFCE, through which courses and programmes of study could be validated. These alternative awards remain government regulated and we were interested in looking at the full range of possible awards, including diplomas and certificates.

This alternative model should aim to keep all legal arrangements to the minimum of what is required to fulfill certain legal obligations. The co-operative could be un-incorporated and set up contractual agreements to deal with specific issues, for example, the employment of workers through self-employment schemes, or owning property through the creation of trusts, or dealing with other types of liability through insurance schemes. What was made clear is that in the UK, a ‘co-operative’ can take different legal forms and therefore flexibly accommodate the aspirations of its founding members.

There was a very strong feeling that the co-operative should not create precarious forms of employment, but pay workers a wage that is commensurable with other academic labour, including professional and support staff, and for workers in the education co-operative to have access to full employment rights. One unique aspect of this co-operative form of higher education is that students could be paid a salary, maybe on the lines of craft apprentices.

All of this raises the question about the relationship of this new form of co-operative higher education to the local and national state as the main arbiter of legal matters and source of public provision. This is a highly practical matter but should also be considered as a form of intellectual inquiry through, for example, a critique of political economy and critical legal studies.

It was suggested that we work towards a distinct research project to actually establish an autonomous form of co-operative higher education, going further than the current form of the Social Science Centre, and working through the specific issues in relation to the matters discussed at the workshop and the final recommendations of our current research project.

Workshop – Business Models for Co-operative Higher Education

Beyond Public and Private: A model for co-operative higher education.

Funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF).

Workshop: Business Models for Co-operative Higher Education

Venue: Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln, LN2 5AX.

Date: Friday 20th November 2015, 10am – 4pm

This workshop will focus on the business model that can enable and support the development of co-operative higher education. If you would like to attend, please contact Joss Winn.

Two scenarios will guide the day:

  • The creation of a new co-operative ‘higher education provider’
  • The conversion of an existing university into a co-operatively owned and democratically governed institution that maintains its university title.

A summary of what was achieved in previous workshops (pedagogy, governance and legal frameworks) will be presented to you at the start of the day. We have suggested a structure for the business workshop, together with a number of key themes to be addressed and some recommended reading material.

An important principle of the work we are doing together is that it should involve collaboration and co-operation at all stages, so we are very keen for your suggestions as to how the workshop should be organised as well as important matters you feel need to be discussed, together with suggestions for further reading.

Themes

Key suggested themes to be addressed at this workshop include:

  • Who are the co-operative’s members and what co-operative model are we proposing?
  • What services and/or products will the co-operative university provide?
  • What is the financial framework, including start-up costs, overheads, projected income streams, distribution of profits?
  • Getting started – registering the co-operative, being an employer and general responsibilities?

Reading

Some reading is suggested to inform your thinking about these issues before coming to the workshop:

Cook, Dan (2013) Realising the Co-operative University (pp. 48-50)

Mondragon Corporation – Annual Report (2014)  http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/wp-content/themes/mondragon/docs/eng/annual-report-2014.pdf

Co-operatives UK – Start a Co-op http://www.uk.coop/developing-co-ops/start-co-operative

Radical Roots (2012) How to Set Up a Workers Co-operative http://www.radicalroutes.org.uk/publicdownloads/setupaworkerscoop-lowres.pdf

 

Timetable

We are proposing a ‘roundtable’ format, but welcome suggestions on the day for how we might organise our time together.

10.00 – 10.15 Coffee

10.15 – 10.30 Aims for the day

10.30 – 11.00 Presentation – Summary of previous workshop outcomes.

11.00 – 12.30 Roundtable discussion: Products and Services

12.30 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 14.15 Roundtable discussion: Membership and Model

14.15 – 14.30 Break

14.30 – 15.45 Financial Framework

15.45 – 16.00 Wrap up and action planning: Getting Started

 

Online Focus Group

We are organising an online focus group for those of you who cannot attend the workshop. This will be on December 3rd 19.00 – 21.00 BST. More details will follow on how to join the online focus group. Please let us know (info@socialsciencecentre.org.uk) if you wish to join it instead of this workshop.