In, Against and Beyond the Neoliberal University’; linking critical educational theories and practices within the academy with radical education outwith the academy

Researcher: Gordon Asher


Research Year: 2020

Project aims:

Critical Academic Literacies: My research proposes a concept of ‘critical academic literacies’ and involves ongoing attempts to place the fields of Learning Development and academic literacies into productive conversation/dialogue with critical pedagogy and other critical educational theories and practices. Doing so with the intention of benefitting both fields and more widely, as contributing to understandings of our present conjunctures in contemporary HE to inform our resistances to its ongoing neoliberalisation and alternatives to that.

I propose an interpretation, evolution and development of academic literacies, as ‘critical academic literacies’ (Asher, 2014 & 2015b).
‘Critical academic literacies’ is intended as (dialogically and collaboratively) building upon, as an interpretation and expansion, evolution and development of the progressive model of ‘academic literacies’, adopted as a critique of and response to dominant deficit and academic socialisation models with regard to student learning, and thus teaching, in HE. It involves a re-emphasis of academic literacies’ critical roots and critical contemporary interpretations and practices. Further, it draws on critical educational theory and practice, specifically critical pedagogy and popular education (Cowden et al., 2013; Kane, 2001; Darder, 2015a, Freire, 1970), and work on critical and ‘more powerful literacies’ influenced by them (Crowther et al., 2012).

The prefix ‘critical’ foregrounds an attempt to more explicitly anchor (frame and orientate - thus speaking to relevant values and objectives) ‘academic literacies’ within a critical paradigm, and thus attendant wider political project focused on eco-social justice (Asher, 2015a; 86); ‘not only does critical theory criticise current society, it also envisages a fairer, less alienated, more democratic world’ (Brookfield, 2005; 27).

A critical academic literacies approach, can be seen as closely related to approaches that frame their work - within and as a response to our contemporary conjuncture of crises (Haiven, 2014; Chomsky, 2017), including the crisis of the university (Bacevic, 2017) - as ‘in, against and beyond the neoliberal university’ (Hall & Winn; 2017; Asher, 2015c; Canaan, 2012; Cowden et al., 2013), and ‘critical university studies’ - with its call to ‘teach the university’ (Williams, 2012; Cantwell & Kaupinnen, 2014). Thus, connecting struggles over and for the university with broader, ongoing community and societal struggles against neoliberalism and for radical democracy and eco-social justice (Asher, 2015c). Indeed, education of radical democracy (Amsler, 2015).