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ERIC Number: EJ1113450
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0818-8068
Learning by Doing by Learning: Reflections on scholar-activism with the Brisbane Free University
Thompsett, Fern
Australian Universities' Review, v58 n2 p59-66 2016
As universities are swept by a near-global tide of capitalist restructuring, myriad forms of resistance are also on the rise. While struggles that grapple directly with universities are vital, different streams of activism aim beyond them, in the form of "prefigurative" politics--one that works to build a better world "in the shell of the old." This paper focuses on "free universities", prefigurative projects that re-create university-like spaces of learning according to their own radical visions of social justice. Drawing on my own experience as a co-founder and organiser of the Brisbane Free University, as well as research conducted with 25 free universities across North America, I explore the complex tensions involved in working simultaneously within the academy, and engaging in activism beyond it. I show that most free university activists, myself included, see that it is impossible to distinguish between the inside and outside of the university, and that ultimately working across the "divide" through prefigurative politics offers a robust means to effect substantive change.
National Tertiary Education Union. PO Box 1323, South Melbourne 3205, Australia. Tel: +61-3-92541910; Fax: +61-3-92541915; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A