Against the marketization of the university


The crisis in higher education is the result of a privatized culture of management. This is a plea for turning universities back over to the sciences.

Over the last 1.5 years, the VU University Amsterdam has been embroiled in a battle against the severe budgetary cuts pursued by the Dutch government. The university board — consisting of three members, one of whom is the former CEO of a port company and another the former CEO of a bank — has launched a reorganization program that includes budget cuts of €33 million. This reorganization will result in 500-600 lay-offs and the elimination of many small educational programs and courses — and it is already underway.

The opinion piece that follows was written by university employees and published by the Dutch daily, NRC Handelsblad, on April 8, 2013. Although the article draws on the situation at the VU Amsterdam, it takes a broader perspective that implicates higher education as a whole. The rising competition between academics and departments, the commercialization of education programs, and the cuts to public funding are recognizable across universities. A broader crisis in higher education is playing out at the VU, and our organized response to it can serve as a model for resistance.

The VU University Amsterdam is facing a crisis of governance. This crisis was covered in NRC Handelsblad when the newspaper published articles covering the 9-month-long conflict between the university board, the Works Council, the unions, the deans’ council and the employee platform, ‘Concerned for the VU’. Since then, Lex Bouter, the VU’s Rector Magnificus resigned from his post. As members of ‘Concerned for the VU,’ we would like to take this opportunity to publicly elucidate own position on the matter.

The problems that we have raised during this period are not specific to the VU. Nor are they simply the result of failed management or shoddy policy. Rather, this crisis exposes much broader, structural problems in higher education. Namely, academic research and education have been overrun by a comprehensive commercialization process, which is accompanied by a shift towards the model of a Manager’s University. As we wage our opposition to this development at the VU, we are aware of the presence of the same problems at universities across the Netherlands and Europe more generally.

The university’s commercialization process rests on three pillars. The first is the introduction of a new management model that was made official in 1998 with the Modernization of University Governance law. With this legislation, the independence of departments, faculty members and students was seriously undermined. Universities came under the control of a new generation of managers trained on the principles of New Public Management. The core philosophy was that running a university is essentially the same as running a commercial company. The consequence was that students are treated as clients, degrees as products, while researchers and lecturers as the personnel of the production line.

The second pillar is the creation of a ‘market’ for higher education, especially through a funding model that rewards universities according to the number of degrees that they grant. Universities are incentivized to attract as many students as possible and encourage them to graduate as quickly as possible. The role of public relations and marketing workers became increasingly important as universities were stimulated to follow their ‘competitors’ while carefully sustaining their university’s positive image on the market. Our colleagues in other universities are seen suddenly as competitors.

The third and final pillar is both the least visible and the most reprehensible: the ‘financialization’ of universities and the adoption of the practices of financial markets. In a nutshell, this strategy means that universities must borrow increasing amounts, for instance, in order to finance the construction of new buildings. This has made banks increasingly important behind-the-scenes players in the task of upholding universities. Proponents of this approach expected the advantage of increased efficiency.

However, realistic evaluation reveals that these policies have had disastrous consequences. For the managers who see the university simply as another commercial entity it is not the quality of education that is of primary concern, but revenue and competitiveness. The result is the intensification of education in the pursuit of economies of scale (larger class sizes, fewer contact hours and the emergence of wide curricula with catchy names and little substance), but also lowered labor costs (hiring of young, less-experienced lecturers on temporary contracts). Moreover, universities have taken on the status of debtors, and must therefore ensure that their credit is good. Yet, as we have come to see, this is partly subject to the evaluation of their management. As a result, several small and specialized educational programs come to be evaluated as ‘loss-making’.

Moreover, a system of allocating funding according to student success rates produces distorted incentives as it creates a systematic pressure for all involved to give students a passing grade. In some cases, the no-cure-no-pay principle is being applied even to thesis supervision. If a student fails to submit the dissertation on time, the supervision hours are not remunerated. Fortunately, the large majority of academics have developed a professional ethic that leads them to continue ensuring the quality of student output. However, these systematic flaws are at odds with that ethnical drive.

In the workplace, managers and faculty have become increasingly alienated from one another. The most highly specialized group of employees in the country is treated as a dispensable labour force and faces more and more standardization, penalization and sometimes even straightforward surveillance. Coffee-breaks are reserved for the fittingly cynical condemnation of managers and their ludicrous newspeak, their clumsy involvement in the university’s core tasks of education and research and their superficial advertizing campaigns. Unfortunately, however, the resources, time and energy to do remedy this situation are often lacking.

The VU governance crisis – which we owe in part to our own passivity – can be seen as a potential source of positive publicity for the university. This crisis is a sign that employees here are rejecting a stance of cynical resignation and demanding the university be given back to faculty, the administrative personnel and the students. The market principles that were introduced 20 years ago within the semi-public sector have clearly failed to improve higher education. While the managers that have benefited most from this development seem to be in a deep state of denial, the university employees at the VU are no longer buying into their narrative. Our hope is that this crisis will not end with the empty ‘sacrifice’ of the Rector, but will instead become the beginning of a radical change in the way higher education is organized at the university.

What we need is a realistic alternative. This alternative will not come from the national government. Therefore, we call on all university employees across the country and the continent to think and act with us.

Jan Abbink, Donya Alinejad, Ellen Bal, Femke Brandt, Lenie Brouwer, Elise Dijkstra, Bertie Kaal, Elly Pauelsen, Dimitris Pavlopoulos, Mark Peters, Marina de Regt, Jeroen Rodenberg, Arjan de Rooy, Matthias van Rossum, Ida Sabelis, Josephien Sierag, Boris Slijper, Bert van der Spek, Houkje Vlietstra, Hans de Waardt, Pieter Wagenaar

The authors of this article are lecturers, researchers and administrative employees of the VU Amsterdam. They are all active in the platform ‘Concerned for the VU’. On Thursday, April 25, this platform organizes an open event with title ‘The university of the managers is bankrupt: It’s time for the change!’

Republication from

Athens: Cops detained comrades during solidarity action with Athens IMC and 98FM radio station

Via: contrainfo

In the morning of April 24th, as part of solidarity actions with counter-information media that were recently gagged by the Greek State with the aid of the rector of the National Technical University of Athens, Simos Simopoulos, a large banner was placed at Propylaea on Panepistimiou street in downtown Athens, that reads: “Raise your voice – Fight against state censorship – &” while a red and black flag was raised on the building, replacing their Greek national

A couple of hours later MAT anti-riot squadrons and motorcycle cops encircled the building. More than 30 comrades who participated in the solidarity intervention were detained and transferred to the police headquarters, on Alexandras avenue.

There is a call for solidarity gathering outside the Athens police headquarters.



Greek employer opens fire on migrant workers

Nea Manolada, Greece: 20-30 strawberry pickers from Bangladesh got shot by the foremen of their employer when approximately 80 migrant workers gathered to demand six-months’ unpaid wages. According to local media four were seriously injured. The employer has been arrested while the foremen are still on the run.

Exploitation and brutality against migrants is an ongoing issue in the area: in 2008 migrant workers went on strike to protest against slave wage exploitation, and shocking living conditions. According to

their strike exposed slave wage exploitation, shocking living conditions and prejudice.

The government at the time responded to the strike by ordering labour inspectors to crack the whip on farmers exploiting migrant workers in Nea Manolada.

In 2009 two farmers tied two Bangladeshi immigrants to a motorcycle and dragged them through a village square.

After the spread of the news, many Greek citizens declared that mass boycotts against the Nea Manolada’s agricultural products.

Further reports claim that police forces arrests the injured victims interrupting their hospitalization, aiming to proceed in deportation.

The hospitalized immigrants of Manolada


The business men who opened fire against the unpaid Immigrant workers in Manolada. Names: Nikos Vagelatos, Makis Vagelatos and StavrosVagelatos


Thousands attended anti-Thatcher protest in London

At least 3000 students, activists and former miners converged last Saturday in Trafalgar Square, London to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death, four days before her funeral (April 17). The woman who implemented the theories of the Chicago School, giving birth to Neoliberalism in the 1980s, continues to divide Britain even after her death.

Back in 1990, Trafalgar Square was the battlefield where police and protesters clashed during the Poll Tax riots.

«Maggie’s dead» cheered the protesters. They were confronted by police, who made nine arrests. People of all ages danced in the rain, sounding horns, whistles, and beating drums.

Present in Trafalgar was David Douglas, ex-miner and member of the National Union of Mineworkers of Yorkshire, who said that he was «very pleased» to hear of Thatcher’s death.

«She destroyed our community, our villages and our people. Our children have got no jobs and the community is full of problems. There’s no work and no money and it’s very sad the legacy she has left behind» said David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miner’s Association.

Tony Smith, a former miner, said: «We’ve lived under Thatcher’s shadow for many years. It split families right down the middle and that resentment is still going on.»

The Scottish painter Sigrid Holmwood was holding an umbrella which read «Ding Dong» referring to the song «Ding dong the witch is dead» from the film The Wizard of Oz. The song became a slogan among Thatcher’s opponents.

«I came here today, I wouldn’t say to celebrate, but protesting against millions of public money being spent on her funeral when there are cuts that affect the sick or the disabled», Holmwood said.

Below: Miner David Douglas gives speech (at Trafalgar Square)

Call for solidarity for Athens Indymedia


We could start complaining about legality, showing how «unconstitutional» is the behavior of the Three Powers of this dreary country called Greece: based on the Article 14 of the Greek Constitution (concerning the freedom of press) the actions of the Government and Judiciary Power are utterly «illegal and unconstitutional», even under civil «democratic» criteria.

Ridiculous pettifoggers like Voridis or the ‘left-winger’ Manitakis, lawyers, members of Government, elite executives would mumble legal counter-arguments we could annul (with great ease) within the framework of their own ideology and of their own «legal culture», (as they like to call it).

But does it makes sense anymore to play in the opponent’s court? This way or another, their «justice» is laughable.

The rulers violate even their own laws, and we insist that these specific laws are not to be trusted. In short, we do not believe in «Greek Justice»; they can put their codices up their arse. No doubt the Greek Police protects the elites and the governmental personnel.

With everyday, growing and furious struggles in the streets and everywhere, we fight by any means for a society of equality, freedom, justice and solidarity. Until we make it they should know that while their blind Justice sees clearly what she wants with one eye (or with two), we have our eyes open even in our sleep, and are preoccupied with only one cause: the revolution.

And even if some are still sleeping, it is time they woke up, or shut up once and for all, and say clearly whether they support the conservative forces, or the movements from below.

Support the call for solidarity against the attack of the Government to the counter-information media of the movement:, 98FM Radio and Radio Endasi, (and to all these that will soon be attacked).

Today, Friday April 12 at 13:00 at the central square in Zografou

Access by bus:
608 from Acadimia
242 from metro station Katehaki
Read here the call of the collectivity of

The article in Greek here