The Social Science Centre, Lincoln: the theory and practice of a radical idea




Cooperative higher education, cooperative university, adult education, community education, democratic education


The Social Science Centre, Lincoln (SSC), is a co-operative organising free higher education in the city of Lincoln, England. It was formed in 2011 by a group of academics and students in response to the massive rise in student fees, from £3000 to £9000, along with other other government policies that saw the increasing neo-liberalisation of English universities. In this essay we chart the history of the SSC and what it has been like to be a member of this co-operative; but we also want to express another aspect of the centre which we have not written about: the existence of the SSC as an intellectual idea and how the idea has spread and been developed through written publications by members of the centre and by research on the centre by other non-members: students, academics and journalists. At the end of the essay we will show the most up to date manifestation of the idea, the plans to create a co-operative university with degree awarding powers where those involved, students and academics, can make a living as part of an independent enterprise ran and owned by its members for their benefit and the benefit of their community and society. 


Allsop, Bradley (2017) Taking on the Spectre that Haunts Higher Education. The Norwich Radical -, accessed 10th November, 2017.

Amsler, Sarah (2017) What Do We Mean When We Say Democracy? Learning Towards a Common Future Through Popular Higher Education. Haworth Robert and John Elmore (eds) Out of the Ruins: The Emergence of Radical Informal Learning Space. PM Press.

Bonnett, Alastair (2011) Are radical journals selling out?’ Times Higher Education -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Bonnett, Alastair (2013) Something New in Freedom. Times Higher Education, accessed 10th November 2017.

Chatterton, Paul, Hodkinson Stuart, Pickerill, Jenny (2010) Beyond Scholar Activism: Making Strategic Intervention Inside and Outside the Neoliberal University. Acme: an International E-Journal for Scholarly Geographies.

Class War University (2013) Occupying the City with the Social Science Centre: An Interview with Mike Neary -, accessed 8th November 2017.

Cook, Dan (2013) Realising the Co-operative University. A Consultancy Report for the Co-operative College. Manchester -, accessed 8th November, 2017.

Dyer-Witheford, Nick (2015 ) Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex. London: Pluto Press.

Earl, Cassie (2015) An Exploration of Popular Education from Occupy London to the University. Making Hope Possible in the Face of Neo-Liberal Enclosure. Manchester Metropolitan University. PhD Thesis.

Graeber, David Ross, Andrew and Caffentzis, George (2014) Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual. PM Press.

Grove, Jack (2012) Unplugged. Times Higher Education -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Holloway,John ( 2005) Change the World Without Taking Power: the Meaning of Revolution Today. London: Pluto Press.

Hall, Richard and Winn, Joss (2017) Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

Hall, Richard and Smyth, Keith (2016) Against Boundaries Dismantling the Curriculum in Higher Education. Open Library of the Humanities -, accessed 10th November 2017.

ICA (no date) Co-operative Identity, Values and Principles,, accessed 15th December 2017.

Jones, Sarah (2014) Contrived Collegiality? Investigating the Efficacy of Co-operative Teacher Development. Tom Woodin (ed) Co-operative, Learning and Co-operative Values: Contemporary Issues in Education. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 4-86.

Labour Party (2016) Alternative Models of Ownership. Report to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, accessed 8th November 2017.

Maisuria, Alpesh and Cole, Mike (2017) The Neoliberalisation of Higher Education in England: There is an alternative. Policy Futures in Education -, accessed 8th November 2017.

SSC Collective (2013) An Experiment in Free, Co-operative, Higher Education. Radical Philosophy, 182 -, accessed 10th November 2017.

SSC Collective (2017) Making a Co-operative University. Wonkhe,, accessed 9th November 2017.

Neary, Mike and Amsler, Sarah (2012) Occupy: a new pedagogy of space and time? Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 10 (2) -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Neary, Mike (2015) Educative Power: the Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period of Civil War. Culture Machine, 16 . pp. 1-28 -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Neary, Mike, Saunders, Gary, Hagyard, Andy, and Derricott, Dan (2015) Student as Producer: Research Engaged Teaching, an Institutional Strategy. Report for the Higher Education Academy. York,, accessed 8th November 2017.

Neary, Mike and Winn, Joss (2009) The Student as Producer: Reinventing the Student Experience in Higher Education. The Future of Higher Education: Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience. Les Bell, Mike Neary and Howard Stevenson. London: Continuum, London, pp. 192-210.

Neary, Mike and Saunders, Gary (2016) Student as producer and the Politics of Abolition: Making a New Form of Dissident Institution? Critical Education, 7 (5)., accessed 10th November 2017.

Neary, Mike (2016) Student as Producer: the struggle for the idea of the University. Other Education: the journal of educational alternatives. 5 (1), pp. 89-94

Neary, Mike (2017) Academic Voices. In Joss Winn and Richard Hall (eds) Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in HE. Bloomsbury Publishing.

McKay, Carol (2017). Undergraduate Dissertation. University of Lincoln.

McAleavey, D. and Amsler, A. (2012) A Practice that Aspires: Pedagogies of Creativity, Democracy and Inclusion in Popular Higher Education. Social Science Centre. Lincoln -, access 10th November 2017.

Pusey, Andre and Sealey-Huggins Leon (2013) Transforming the University: Beyond Students and Cuts. Acme – an international journal for critical geographies. (12) 3.

Rose, Jonathan (2010) The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Roggero, Gigi (2011) The Production of Living Knowledge: The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labour in Europe and North America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Saunders, Gari and Ghanimi, Ali (2014) From Edinburgh to Brighton; Britain’s Free, Alternative Higher Education Network Offers Life-Long Learning Without Life-Long Debt. Ragged University,, accessed 8th November 2017.

Saunders, Gary (2017) Somewhere Between Reform and Revolution: Alternative Higher Education and ‘The Unfinished’. Richard Hall and Joss Winn ‘Mass Intellectuality and Demcratic Leadership in Higher Education. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

Stanistreet, Paul (2012) Anyone Can Teach, Anyone Can Learn. Adults Learning, Spring.

Swain, Harriet (2013) Could the Free University Movement be the Great New Hope for Education, accessed 8th November 2017.

Swain, Harriet (2017) Coming Soon, A University Where Students Could Set Their Own Tuition Fees. The Guardian,, accessed 8th November 2017.

Winn, Joss (2015a) Writing About Academic Labour.Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour. 25,, accessed 8th November 2017.

Winn, Joss (2015b) The Co-operative University: Labour, Property and Pedagogy. Power and Education, 7 (1). pp. 39-55 -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Withers, Deborah (2013) An Interview with Joyce Canaan. Alec Wardrop, Alex and Deborah Withers, Deborah (eds) The Para Academic Handbook: a Toolkit for Making-Creating-Learning-Acting. Bristol: Hammeron Press, pp.39-60 -, accessed 10th November 2017.

Woodin, Tom (2017) Co-operation, Leadership and Learning: Fred Hall and the Co-operative College before 1939. In: Hall, Richard and Winn, Joss (Eds.) Mass intellectuality and democratic leadership in higher education, London: Bloomsbury.






Discussion notes