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Third Seminar

Page history last edited by Izaak Dekker 14 years ago

Invitation for the third seminar (pdf)


Seminar 3: What’s going on at the university?

28 April 2010


This meeting was intended to gather a general collection of thoughts on university reforms in European or Western context, and advance to our next two meetings at Philosopher’s Rally (19, 20 May). Subjects were: student protests in the Netherlands, Bologna process and its implementation in Italy, learning as value/democratic principle.


First speaker: Jeroen van der Starre (comité SOS, International Socialists, BA student philosophy EUR)

SOS consists of several student networks that have joined forces since September 2009. Their general and concrete aim is to stop cuts on higher education. A wave of actions took place last February, though there were not yet any official plans to reform, just commissions appointed to think of ways to cut 20% of education budget. These unofficial plans included cutting studiefinanciering, students’ free access to public transport and allowing universities to rise tuition fees after a certain period of study. Actions were held in order to send out a message and to get discussion going amongst students –most of whom were not very well informed or involved. On Feb.1st four universities were occupied and actions were held in two or three more. The actions got wide media coverage. In Rotterdam students occupied two classrooms (one first, then another when they got no response). This four day symbolic occupation ended in a demonstration on campus that attracted 3-400 students. Results of the actions are that more people know about government plans and students’ point of view and more activists have joined forces to forms groups all over the country.

21 May there will be another demonstration in The Hague, where SOS will give students voting advice.

SOS’s and Jeroen’s personal aims are to get debates going on the quality of higer education and to create a platform –which did not yet exist- to provide bases for further actions.


Second speaker: Chiara Bonfiglioli (Economics on the Border, Phd student Women’s studies UU)

Chiara brought a brochure of the European Higer Education Area (link?) from which she quoted several aims and values the Bologna process is meant to support and make possible to reach. These include mobility, competitiveness, measurement of quality and life long learning. Knowledge is a crucial component – knowledge as commodity, university as corporation. Italy was the first country to implement Bologna. Points of critique: idea that knowledge is measurable in European Credits (ECTS); fragmentation of knowledge; acceleration of study time; increase in fees, fewer scholarships (instead loans with low interest). The aim of Bologna is to maximize production efficiently. The ideal student moves between classes and studying; there is no time for dialogue or extra (reading) activities. “Don’t lose time!” This depoliticizes students.

The question is: what happens to knowledge/content of knowledge? Teachers deliver packages of knowledge for students to consume. This is alienating: students don’t see the production and genealogy of knowledge. They get the idea knowledge is ‘neutroknowledge’. Movements of self education and self managed courses (links uniriot, bolognaburns) arose after the implementation of Bologna in Italy. The motto of these movements is: “There can be no knowledge without passion.” Social spaces for discussion, reading, traveling have been created.


Third speaker: Izaak Dekker (Economics on the Border, Ma student philosophy EUR)

Some concepts and questions regarding education.

According to John Dewey, education in general has to start with experience. Each experience has a beginning, an ending, is singular and has an active and a passive part. Learning is putting a connection between the active and the passive part, through interaction, leading to a result. This is a social process: connections are formed through language. Meaning is assigned through the construction of vocabulary that is accessible to anyone in the community. Experience has an intrinsic value; this is his so called 'democratic criterium'. A democracy should be concerned with warranting the free exchange of experiences and improvement of subsequent ecxperiences.


Dewey distinguishes between natural and formal ways of learning. Once a congealed whole of experiences accumalates formal education is needed. Here the risk is created that knowledge becomes separated from experience. Knowledge is institutionalized. Institutions create a curriculum that exists outside social practices.

In a democratic society education has to be a social process in which knowledge stays connected to experience. Democracy means equal access to vocabularies; education needs to be carried by the community. Learning should be a life long thing; there should be continuous reflection on (and from within) institutions to keep making connections with (social) experience.


Questions, Comments and Replies

Q How do social practices relate to university? How is the Bologna process at odds with this (Dewey) story?

R Education starts with social practice as an anchor point to move from. Knowledge is a practice and one should be introduced to it through experience. If Bologna is about unifying learning systems, there is the risk of making it harder to connect learning to lived experience.


Q Dewey focuses on social processes, while Bologna focuses on the market. Is knowledge being commodified in formal education? Is it tradable?

R If the Bolognaprocess means an enlargement of exchangeability of knowledge, which means equal access, this is a good thing.

C Several interpretations of Dewey are possible. Dewey and Bologna might state the same problems, namely that knowledge at university is disconnected from social practice. One could use Dewey to analyse the problem and argue that marketization is necessary to reconnect university to the world of experience.

C Another adds that the assessment you make of Bologna differs in each country. The system as it was before didn’t work well either.

Another problem is that there is an immense proliferation of schools outside of school people have to go to in order to be able to pass entry exams.

C The discussion on Bologna is not about the values put forward, such as exchangeability or life long learning. It is about how these values are mediated. The commodification of knowledge is a mediation of exchangeability.

The question of everyone present seems to be: is this the right mediation? Which is answered: it is not and it cannot be. But how to create an alternative?

C The problem seems to be political and institutional, rather than philosophical. Bologna is not about knowledge, it is about quality assessment. But quality is never anywhere defined. How are different approaches to learning in different countries to be assessed through unified criteria and quantifications? And how is thought supposed to be assessed? Within Bologna criteria philosophy is totally useless. How to safe guard philosophy?


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