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British Academy Early Career Network on Critical University Studies


For ECRs (PhD less than ten years ago) working on any area of University Studies

This project is inspired in part by the recent call to action (Helen Small, Stefan Collini) for bolder intellectual leadership around the questions 'what do Universities really do?' and 'What are they for?'.

The network has the simple, admittedly ambitious, aim of developing strategies for early career scholars to advance the field of University studies, particularly in relation to thought-leadership and new scholarly methods. Predicated on the notions that a) scholars have important things to say about the future of universities and b) that such conversation will be best informed, and effective, in consort with administrators and policy leaders the programme comprises:

- 20 committed early career academics and others working in related fields, with expertise on some aspect of Universities, from across the UK

- 3 full-day workshops January-April (discussion based, problem-solving

oriented) and a related symposium on 'Academic Citizenship'

- input from Simon Goldhill, Chris Newfield and Helen Small; the research councils; senior HE administration and leadership (more details are in the attached).

The first workshop will be held on Tuesday January 23rd, 10am-4.30pm in Cambridge; the second meeting on February 26th, 10am-4.30pm at the British Academy in London; and the final workshop during the last week of April (date tbc).

The network can cover the costs of travel to Cambridge and London and overnight accommodation for each meeting if desired

To apply - please send a short CV (2-3 pages), and a paragraph outlining your interest in joining the network, to Dr Alison Wood by 19 January 2018.


This initiative aims to build British capacity in the emerging field of Critical University Studies
(CUS). Drawing on disciplines across the Arts and Humanities CUS is both scholarly and political,
setting out to better understand how Universities can serve the public good and to enact changes
that will enable that service. Arguably, expertise in this field is needed more than ever during a
period of intense change in global higher education (legislative, social, financial). But CUS poses
serious challenges for early career scholars: it is a relatively new field, cross-disciplinary and transsector
(policy, administrative, academic) and thus difficult to place alongside established
institutional structures of hiring, grant-making and publication. This network will identify
strategies for advancing scholarship in the context of such constraints, and develop future
leadership capacity for early career scholars via sustained contact with each other, and with
leading academics and HE policy makers. The programme of work will include workshops (in
Cambridge and London) and a day-long meeting with HE sector leaders.

Critical University Studies (CUS) – related to but distinct from social-science oriented HE Studies – draws on
disciplines across Arts and Humanities to address issues facing contemporary Universities. During the last 3
years the field has reached critical mass: both Johns Hopkins and Palgrave presses have launched CUS book
series, and major programmes have been supported in the US, UK and Europe (e.g. the European
Commission funded consortium ‘Universities in the Knowledge Economy’ (UNIKE), Aarhus, 2013-17). CUS is
also an increasingly important field for many decision makers as Universities, their environments and their
commitments become more complex; and as those complexities highlight an urgent need for better,
pragmatic visions of what Universities are and do.

Scholars committed to CUS, however, face several challenges:

1. Situational: because CUS is a relatively new, cross-disciplinary and trans-sector field, work usually
happens alongside, or within, other disciplinary structures. Building visibility and viability can be
unusually challenging, particularly in terms of hiring, grant funding and publication.

2. Methodological: relations between field-level focus (eg. the health of the HE sector) and specific
enquiry are difficult to navigate (eg. tensions between distinct and shared vocabularies) and
opportunities for guidance are rare.

3. Contextual: the necessarily trans-sector enquiry of CUS and its ambitions for change often demand
perspectives within scholarship and beyond, requiring well-established personal networks and

These challenges are also opportunities. Addressing them will help shape the field and its future leadership,
and contribute to an agenda that could feasibly contribute to better decision-making in HE during the next
10-20 years.

This network will develop early-career scholar’s capacity and build the groundwork for such influence by:

1. Identifying and planning strategies for advancing CUS specific to the UK disciplinary and regulatory
environment (jobs, research funding, TEF, REF) and alongside good global insights.

2. Developing a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the field, particularly
around methods, genres and publication forms.

3. Connecting future field-leaders with key figures in policy and administration.


‘Mapping the Emerging Field of CUS’. January 2018, CRASSH, Cambridge (full day workshop, optional

'Scholarship in policy, policy in scholarship'. 26 February 2018, British Academy, London (full day workshop,
optional dinner).

‘Global Matters’. May 2018, CRASSH, Cambridge (1.5 day workshop, dinner and overnight accommodation).
In conjunction with the CRASSH symposium ‘Academic Citizenship’ (convened by Alison Wood, Richard
Oosterhoff and Theodor Dunkelgrün)

The Network

• Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek and Director of CRASSH, University of Cambridge
• Christopher Newfield, Professor of English, University of California, Santa Barbara and General Editor
of the Johns Hopkins book series ‘Critical University Studies’
• Helen Small, Professor of English, Oxford University
• Up to 20 UK early career scholars (as defined by the British Academy, i.e. no more than 10 years
post-PhD) drawn from all disciplines encompassed by the British Academy, and with demonstrable
interest and ability in some area of CUS
• Representatives from HEPI, and the Research Councils; scholars in Higher Education, Literary Studies,
History, Anthropology; senior HE administrators
• Supported by a website, blog and administrative staff at CRASSH

Planned outcomes

Throughout the project network members will have the opportunity to develop:
1. a co-authored white-paper-style statement on the emerging field of Critical University Studies,
published via the CRASSH website and geared particularly to administrative and policy concerns
2. an edited collection of papers, the precise form to be decided by the network as its work progresses,
likely to be published as a special journal issue with contributions invited from all network members
and guests

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