The Free University of Western Sydney (FUWS) seeks to open up the space for learning, discussion and debate beyond the structures of the increasingly outcome-oriented tertiary education system. We believe that a truly free exchange of teaching and learning is meant to disrupt conventional worldviews, transform, and act as an emancipatory force for all involved. At FUWS it is recognised that everyone, regardless of their education, job, or experience, has an important perspective to bring in discussing critical questions on contemporary issues.
FUWS is a part of worldwide reactions and alternative responses to the university model under neoliberalism, where the orthodoxy of capital governs its function. The modern university system is built on the foundations of white supremacy, including the reign of western scientific knowledge. The university in effect reproduces “classed, racialized, nationalized, gendered, moneyed, and militarized stratifications” (Kelley 2016). In light of this, the solutions offered by universities in historically settler colonial societies like Australia – aimed at making them more equitable places yet foregoing any serious consideration of the foundational power structures at play – will not result in liberating the university from its oppressive roots. This is why, as Robin D.G. Kelley (2016) points out, universities as corporate institutions in the neoliberal era cannot be engines of social transformation: “Love and study cannot exist without struggle, and struggle cannot occur solely inside the refuge we call the university.”
Given the expanding grip of neoliberal logic and practice in all spheres of society, it is outside the university where enlightened spaces can be formed. What is meant by an ‘enlightened’ space? At FUWS we envision this to be a setting, a gathering, and ongoing transformative dialogues that challenge the social stratifications involving race, class, gender, and their effects on human and non-human life. An enlightened space makes room for alternative ways of thinking and being in the world to be imagined and enacted.
We gather at FUWS with the aim of challenging the comfortable consumerism of university education, because we believe that education is not a commodity. Feeling uncomfortable is an important part of transformative conversations and actions that form the learning process. FUWS sees the critical exchange of education as public acts of reaching out at a critical time where more and more public spaces are privatised. It is through such exchanges that we may hope facilitate the emergence of “a democracy where intellectual thought informs critique, embodies a sense of integrity, and reclaims education in the service of justice and equality” (Giroux 2016).
FUWS is free and accessible. It remains politically and economically autonomous from political parties and organisations, government, private bodies, universities and NGOs. There is no enrolment, no registration and no fee. You are free to come to any session as you like and as you are, ready for the transformation of free learning.
Henry Giroux (2016) “Exile as a Space of Disruption in the Academy.” McMaster Institute.
Robin D.G Kelley (2016) “Black Study, Black Struggle.” Boston Review.