What does Free Uni mean to you, and what should it be?

The Free University of Sheffield is only two years old – we’re a young group, and our aims and guiding principles are not set in stone. Each year we want to review what we are, and where we’re heading.

We’re asking active members, old and new, to give their thoughts on what Free Uni means to them. Why did you join? What are your aims for Free Uni? What do you think should be the guiding principles for the group? Why are we doing what we do?

If you’ve been knocking around for a while, try to think about your experiences with Free Uni, and how they inform what you think Free Uni should be. Try to think about what it is currently, and where you’d like it to be in the future.

There are a diverse range of political views in the group, and lots of people have lots of different ideas about who were and what we should be doing. We want contributions from all these people. The contributions will be brought together into a set of guiding principles, which we’ll present to the group in the last week of October, to be ratified, modified, or – if it’s not good enough – rejected to start over.

Below are some example contributions, already made by members.  Add your own contribution here: http://bit.ly/2dyrc6H 


Toby M:

It was at the activities fair, while I was giving out Free Uni leaflets to anybody who’d take an interest, that I was hit with the worthwhile of the project of attempting to at least partially clarify what we think Free Uni is or should be. On the surprisingly frequent occasions when a student would take a leaflet and not just walk briskly away, the question which would follow would be very similar to the one we have set ourselves, ‘’What is do you mean the Free University?’’ To which I found myself startlingly unprepared, and unimpressed by the answers I did end up giving. I fell back upon inadequate responses like referencing campaigning against HE reforms, or the Richard Roberts occupation last year, both things Free Uni has done and should be proud of, but they are not a full description of what the group is. We are not exclusively a campaign group, nor do we exist only for dramatic direct actions. A clearer understanding of what I strongly sense Free Uni to be, yet struggle to articulate coherently, must have a continuum of thought and deed which can encompass into our project all that Free Uni has done, and all the things it may do in the future.

“By no means do I feel as if I’ve reached an answer which sheds all the necessary light upon this question, or one that wouldn’t very legitimately be rejected either in part or in its entirety by some within Free Uni itself; however it has helped me somewhat in how I think about our group, so as a first step, it’s enough. Clearly, we have all rejected the idea that either ‘politics’ or ‘education’ are things to be practiced only by specific individuals in politely decided times and spaces. It seems to me that we all share a radical vision for the University as a crucial part of a society through which there is never any false segregation imposed between the spheres of the political, the educational, or the social; since we understand all of these to be constantly and intricately linked in their essential natures. Hence, as we act as a ‘Free University’ our educational activities are also acts of dissent against the the preservation of the current idea of the University, in which you are taught only by a hierarchically designated ‘teacher’ and the books or content they set as relevant. Our explicit motions of criticism or attack towards either the government or University are also times when we educate ourselves and one another through our actions, whether they prove to be overt successes or failures on their own terms. Of course, everything we do is social in nature, but more straight-forwardly, I don’t think I am at all alone in having experienced having left a social event, whether at the park, pub or a house, feeling like I have learnt far more and am more fresh for political dissent than after almost any seminar or lecture I have had.

“My hope is that this very brief sketch of how I see the vast richness and complexity of Free Uni will be clarifying than mystifying, or more precisely that it will raise more helpful questions than it will offer unhelpful answers.”



“To me free uni is comftable place to meet like-minded people. Throughtiut the time I have spend with free uni my political knowledge has massively expanded, as well as my acceptance of radical ideas. It’s a community of left wing activists, if there’s a demo on someone from free uni will be going so you’re not alone. if there’s something happening, you’ll find out about it through free uni. It’s also a group with it’s own aims, constantly holding the university to account, campaigning against the commercialisation of higher education, and educating the student body about these things. From being part of free uni I have gone on to work in other campaigns, such as trade unions and the living wage, just showing again the community free uni is and where you can go from it.”

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