Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution? From quiescence to resistance in the contemporary university

Bowes-Catton, Helen; Brewis, Joanna; Clarke, Caroline; Drake, Deborah; Gilmour, Alison and Penn, Alison (2020). Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution? From quiescence to resistance in the contemporary university. Management Learning, 51(4) pp. 378–397.



In discussing the events leading up to the resignation of the former Open University Vice Chancellor in April 2018, we focus on the enactment of a form of resistance against proposals for the university through a WhatsApp group, enabling rapid information exchange, discussion of tactics and concrete planning for action. We suggest our group – ‘the Hive’ - was unusual because, first, it countered the politically quiescent trend in academia to comply (at least outwardly) with neoliberalisation, and/or only to write about it, as opposed to mounting challenges. Second, the Hive was virtual; comprising various staff categories, including people based off-campus, it operated almost entirely online and many members had never met face-to-face. This for us evokes notions of the multitude. Third, the group exemplifies alternative forms of solidarity and resistance in other ways, being non-hierarchical, highly pluralist and non-exclusionary. Finally, our Hive provided a supportive, caring space for resisters, which we suggest emerged partly through members’ love for the distinctive social mission of The Open University - although our story also provides hope for harnessing similar emotions within other academic institutions.

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