The University of Utopia

As I am about to head off the Canberra, it feels like I am going to a different country. Here I swim everyday and the temperatures are pushing 30 degrees; there it still gets below zero every night, so I need to pull on all my thermals for nights in the tent.

So I thought I’d repost this one on my ideal university:

The University of Utopia is committed to research of the highest quality, a serious programme of reading, a willingness to discuss ideas with colleagues and work collectively. Unlike other universities, the University of Utopia does not overpay its staff in return for overwork. By contrast, a full professor receives AUD $30,000 per annum. The difference – AUD $ 120,000 – goes to paying adequate administrative staff, more teaching positions, multiple PhD scholarships, and a world-class library. Promotion involves a reduction in work hours and not an increase in pay.

The expected duties of any lecturer are:
– one course of no more than 10 students per semester
– a maximum of two postgraduate students
– adequate consultation with students
– a maximum of one committee
– a maximum of one hour per week for administrative tasks
– four days per week for reading, research, writing and discussion

The university’s buildings are neither pretentious nor prison-like. They have comfortable offices, enticing reading areas and grounds that encourage reflection and conversation. As a result of the university’s apparent innovation, visitors flock here from around the world. We have become an employer of choice and have become one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities.


7 thoughts on “The University of Utopia

  1. all of the above and within spitting distance of the sea. Most places down under are (except Canberra). As I'm looking for possibilities down there…

  2. "Promotion involves a reduction in work hours and not an increase in pay."

    What does an academic do with a reduction in work hours? Spend more time at home with the kids or doing housework or even holidaying? Roland, show me an academic worth their salt who thinks that what we do is just work. I'd like to see you reduce your hours of reading/thinking/writing! Given that at the Uni of Utopia there is a hierarchy (the 30,000 income ensures more teaching and admin positions, meaning that someone else – women and grad students? – gets to be comparatively exploited (no real time for research for these people), I'm thinking that in the best of utopian traditions you would be willing to acknowledge a slightly dystopian aspect here?

    ps go the Broncos!

  3. Wow, arrived in Canberra to freezing rain and lost of comments. Yes, of course, plenty of places to smoke and think. And given that everyone is on 30000 a year, I can't see exploitation at that level. What it does mean is that for everyone who is employed now at $120000 or more you get four positions, rather than giving one person the high pay and relying on casuals for the rest.

  4. Greetings from the University of Utopia!

    “Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) sets out, for the first time, the paradox of the modern (new) world: the possibility of abundance (freedom) in a society of scarcity (non-freedom), and the dangers that are inherent in this paradoxical situation for the development of the emergent capitalist society.

    More suggests the universality of education as a way of resolving this paradox. For the humanist More, the highest pleasures are those of the mind, and true happiness depends on their realization. On More’s fantasy island, Utopia is a universal school for all its citizens, where all civic life is education. Citizens attend public lectures in the morning, participate in lively discussions during meal-times, and, in the evening, receive formal supervision from scholars.

    In 1953, with the publication of The University of Utopia, the educational philosopher Robert Hutchins extended More’s allegory to a liberal humanist reappraisal of higher education. Anticipating the vocationalist critique of contemporary higher education, Hutchins wrote, “The object of the educational system, taken as a whole, is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens.” Hutchins’s views have been repeated and endorsed in the increasing volume of critical literature on the commercialisation of higher education.

    However this critical literature has struggled to provide any convincing alternatives to ‘academic capitalism’. This absence of any radical alternative, occurs not because of a lack of imagination, but by virtue of the nature of liberal-humanism itself. For Žižek liberal humanism “precludes any serious questioning of the way this liberal-democratic order is complicit in the phenomena it officially condemns, and, of course, any serious attempt to imagine a different socio-political order.” What this amounts to, for Žižek, is “a prohibition on thinking… the moment we seriously question the existing liberal consensus, we are accused of abandoning scientific objectivity for outdated ideological positions.”

    The aim of the University of Utopia is to recover the freshness of More’s critique, while going beyond Hutchins’s liberal fundamentalism, in order to imagine some real, radical futures for Higher Education. With you, we hope to address the problem of inventing a form of radicality that confronts the same paradox that emerged in Tudor England, and continues to undermine the progressive development of the post-capitalist world.”

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