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The public role of the university is today subject to intense debate, with significant concern that the contemporary university in its entrepreneurial form comes into structural conflict with the wider interests of both students and publics beyond its walls . New ideas of the public university, both normative and dystopian, are being articulated in the research literature but there is a need for empirical inquiry into the novel forms of the university that may be being built through the everyday practices of academics . Drawing on theories of publics as dynamic and assembled around matters of concern/care , this paper asks whether the growing practice of collaborative and co-produced research is contributing to the development of a new form of public university. The paper is based on a six-year participant-observation of a major UK programme of collaborative research that aimed to ‘connect communities with research’. Based on 100 interviews and a survey of 309 participants, the paper argues that the publics that are being convened by this programme have the potential both to immunise the university against more disruptive and sustained reflection on its public and societal role, and at the same time, to nurture new hybrid forms of public university that are embodied in particular academic and civil society identities. It concludes by arguing that the new public university might be understood as a place where multiple publics are convened and where the radical latent potential of the institution lies in putting these different publics into dialogue.
- SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
- SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations
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