Youth

29
Aug

Mondragon University vocational student

Applied learning: degrees at Mondragon are almost exclusively vocational, and research focuses on technology transfer

Source: Getty

By David Matthews

SolidarityEconomy.net via Times Higher Education / UK

We report from Spain on the University of Mondragon, which is fighting to preserve its teaching mission, industry-focused research and mutual governance model

Mondragon is jointly owned by its academic and administrative staff. No one may earn more than three times the salary of the lowest-paid worker

It is hard to think of a time when academics in the UK have been more dissatisfied with where the academy is going. Their list of gripes is long: from the rise of the student “consumer” to overpaid vice-chancellors, a distant management class, increasing marketisation, a seemingly ever-growing brood of administrators and, perhaps least tangibly, a sense that academia is turning into a competitive rather than comradely affair.

Last year, senior scholars founded the Council for the Defence of British Universities, which set out to fight many of these developments, along with what they believe to be increasing control of universities by government and business. But so far no practical alternatives have emerged. Meanwhile, experiments such as Lincoln’s Social Science Centre, a cooperative organisation offering higher education for free, have taken place only on a very small, relatively informal scale.

At a time when many academics feel remote from their university’s managers and strategic plans, the cooperative model, in which all staff have a stake, has obvious appeal. So, can the University of Mondragon, an established higher education cooperative in the lush green mountains of the Basque Country in northern Spain, offer any answers for academies elsewhere? Founded in 1997 from a collection of co-ops dating back to 1943, the institution now has 9,000 students. The staff have joint ownership and the institution’s culture and its model of governance are radically different from those of modern UK universities.

Times Higher Education went to see how and why they do things differently at Mondragon, and to consider whether some of its practices might appeal to UK scholars looking for a new model for the academy.

Even before arriving in Spain, there is one obvious difference about Mondragon – it does not have a press office to restrict access to the top brass or vet comments by its employees. Instead, THE’s trip was arranged directly through teaching and administrative staff. And on arrival, transport was provided by the vice-chancellor, Jon Altuna, who drove from campus to campus – with the occasional stop-off for tapas and wine.

Mondragon is jointly owned by its academic and administrative staff. To become a fully fledged member, employees have to work there for at least two years, and then pay €12,000 (£10,300), which buys a slice of the university’s capital that can be withdrawn upon retirement.

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Category : Education | Solidarity Economy | Youth | Blog
19
Aug

 

The Burdens of Working-Class Youth 1

Tim Foley for The Chronicle

By Jennifer M. Silva

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Brandon, a 34-year-old black man from Richmond, Va., labels himself "a cautionary tale." Growing up in the shadow of a university where both his parents worked in maintenance, he was told from an early age that education was the path to the "land of milk and honey." An eager and hard-working student, Brandon earned a spot at a private university in the Southeast—finally, his childhood dream of building spaceships seemed to be coming true. He shrugged off his nervousness about borrowing tens of thousands of dollars in loans, joking: "Hey, if I owe you five dollars, that’s my problem, but if I owe you $50,000, that’s your problem."

But his light-hearted banter belies the long train of obstacles and uncertainties that have followed him at every turn. Unable to pass calculus or physics, Brandon switched his major from engineering to criminal justice. He applied to several police departments upon graduation, but he didn’t land a job.

With "two dreams deferred," Brandon took a job at a women’s-clothing chain, hoping it would be temporary. Eleven years later, he’s still there, unloading, steaming, pressing, and pricing garments on the night shift. When his loans came out of deferment, he couldn’t afford the monthly payments and decided to get a master’s degree in psychology—partly to increase his chances of getting a good job, and partly, he admitted, to put his loans back in deferment. He finally earned a master’s degree, paid for with more loans from "that mean lady, Sallie Mae."

So far, Brandon has not found a job that will pay him enough to cover his monthly loan and living expenses, and since the clothing company recently cut overtime and bonuses, he is worried. He keeps the loans in deferment by continually consolidating—a strategy that he said cost him $5,000 a year in interest. Taking stock of his life, Brandon is angry: "I feel like I was sold fake goods. I did everything I was told to do, and I stayed out of trouble and went to college. Where is the land of milk and honey? I feel like they lied. I thought I would have choices. That sheet of paper cost so much and does me no good. Sure, schools can’t guarantee success, but come on—they could do better to help kids out."

Brandon, like many blue-collar millennials, is stuck on a journey to adulthood with no end in sight. His own parents, who had just high-school degrees, were married, steadily employed at the college, and homeowners well before they reached his age. But working-class kids today are growing up in a world where taken-for-granted pathways to adulthood are quickly eroding. Since the 1970s, stable blue-collar jobs have rapidly disappeared, taking family wages, pensions, and employer-subsidized health insurance along with them. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who followed a well-worn path from school to the assembly line—and from courtship to marriage to childbearing—men and women today live at home longer, spend more time in school, change jobs more frequently, and start families later.

Working-class men and women have come to see their relationship with college as a broken social contract.

The answer to the time-honored question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"—or, more aptly, "What can you be when you grow up?"—is in flux. And as working-class families have grown more fragile, and communities, churches, and neighborhoods less close, men and women find themselves on their own when it comes to piecing together an adult life amid the isolation, uncertainty, and insecurity of 21st-century American life.

I spent two years interviewing 100 working-class 20- and 30-somethings in Lowell, Mass., and Richmond. I spoke with African-Americans and whites, men and women, documenting the myriad obstacles that stand in their way. Caught in a merciless job market and lacking the social support, skills, and knowledge necessary for success, these young adults are relinquishing the hope for a better future that is at the core of the American Dream.

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Category : Capitalism | Working Class | Youth | Blog