Author Archives: Joss Winn

Making the Co-operative University conference

The Co-operative University Working Group are hosting a conference in Manchester on 9th November to focus on ‘making the co-operative university: new places, spaces and models of higher education‘.

The aim of the day is to network with like-minded and interested individuals and organisations through active learning and discussion.

It is a one day conference which will take place at Federation House in Manchester on 9th November 2017 with tickets priced at £95 (inc VAT). More details will be published on the Co-operative College’s website soon.

Join us and share your thoughts on what a Co-operative University should look like!

Co-operative Higher Education and Co-operative University Survey

The Co-operative College in Manchester has responded to the Higher Education and Research Act (2017) by forming a Co-operative University Working Group (CUWG) consisting of co-operative educators, academics and other stakeholders. Prof. Mike Neary and Dr. Joss Winn from the University of Lincoln were invited to be members of the CUWG. The College already delivers higher education with a number of partners but the Act offers an opportunity to explore the creation of a Co-operative University in the UK.

A survey has been created as part of a consultancy report A Feasibility Study to Acquire Degree-Awarding Powers conducted for the Co-operative College. The purpose of this survey is to identify demand for co-operative higher education and for a dedicated Co-operative University in the UK.

The survey takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Participants who choose to leave their e-mail will enter a draw for a free ticket for one person to the Co-operative Education and Research Conference 2018.

Please complete this survey by 6th August 2017

Information Sheet

Survey on the demand for co-operative higher education and a Co-operative University in the UK 

The Co-operative College in Manchester has responded to the recent Higher Education Research Act (2017) by forming a Co-operative University Working Group (CUWG) consisting of co-operative educators, academics and other stakeholders. The College already delivers higher education with a number of partners but the Act offers an opportunity to explore the creation of a Co-operative University in the UK.

The recent Higher Education and Research Act encourages the formation of ‘challenger’ institutions to the existing University system. As when Academisation Policy resulted in the development of co-operative schools, we believe that there is fertile ground for the growth of co-operative alternatives to the private higher education institutions that are likely to develop following the implementation of the Act.

The CUWG will report back to the College’s Board of Governors in autumn 2017. Our Terms of Reference can be found on:

The broad purpose of the group is to take a twin track approach to exploring

  • a federated co-operative university model;
  • how the Co-operative College will work towards acquiring degree awarding powers as a secondary co-operative.

We will consider issues such as co-operative governance, co-operative pedagogies, co-operative solutions for student funding. A fundamental focus is on innovative high quality higher education to build co-operative futures.

The purpose of this survey is to identify demand for co-operative higher education or a dedicated Co-operative University in the UK. This survey has been created as part of the consultancy report ‘A Feasibility Study to Acquire Degree Awarding Powers’ conducted for the Co-operative College in Manchester by Eduardo Ramos. Eduardo can be reached at

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Invitation to Workshop on Co-operative Leadership

All academic and professional services staff and students are invited to a workshop on co-operative leadership in higher education on Thursday 25th May, 10-12pm, UL111 (University Library, 1st floor).

In this project, we are exploring the extent to which co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices are present in higher education institutions. The purpose of the research is to develop a qualitative self-evaluation tool that university staff and students can use to enhance and develop co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices in their workplaces and in other aspects of student life.

Over the past year, we have been developing our work through group discussions and interviews with people involved with the co-operative movement. This work has been substantiated with case study research in a co-operative school, an employee-owned high street retailer, a large grocery worker co-operative and a co-operative university in Spain

We have identified a number of core principles which appear to underpin co-operative leadership and other co-operative practices:

  • Knowledge – the production of knowledge and meaning by the organisation as a whole
  • Democracy – the levels of influence on decision making
  • Bureaucracy – not only administration but a set of ethical and moral principles on which administration is based
  • Livelihood – working practices that support the capacity to lead a good life
  • Solidarity – sharing a commitment to a common purpose inside and outside of the institution

The research from which these principles have been identified will be presented at the workshop.

You will have the chance to discuss the extent to which these core principles are present within your own working and learning and teaching environments. We will all then spend time designing a self evaluation tool by which these core principles might be recognised within our own and other higher education institutions.

This self evaluation tool can be seen as an alternative to the metrics and measures approach based on  positive methodologies and methods that are currently imposed on universities by the government.  The self evaluation tool that we are designing implies a more qualitative, humanist, critical-practical reflexive approach to evaluating and valuing the work that we do.

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Conference paper on Co-operative Leadership and Higher Education

On 5th April, Mike Neary, Katia Valenzuela Fuentes (Nottingham) and Joss Winn presented a paper at The Co-operative Education and Research Conference, 5-6 April 2017, Manchester.  It is the first report from their Co-operative Leadership for Higher Education project.

This paper reports on recent research into co-operative leadership which aims to support co-operative higher education; where co-operative education is understood as the connection between the co-operative movement and co-operative learning (Breeze 2011). The research was carried out in three co-operatives: a co-operative school, a co-operative university, a workers’ co-operative, and an employee owned retail business. The research is framed within a set of catalytic principles established in previous research (Neary and Winn 2016): knowledge, democracy, bureaucracy, livelihood and solidarity. The results have been developed as a diagnostic tool for academics, other staff and students in higher education institutions to assess the extent to which they are already operating in co-operative manner and how these co-operative practices might be further developed. The ultimate aim of these activities is to establish a cooperative university. The research is funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Download the paper.

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Workplace Democratisation

A further example of how the framework for co-operative higher education might be expanded to focus on leadership is through the work of Bernstein (1979/2012). His research on the internal dynamics of workplace democratisation includes a focus on participation and leadership and is based on a number of cases studies of private firms that operate with varying levels of democracy in their governance and management. Across the range of his case studies, he identified three “dimensions of participation” (2012, 47):

  1. The degree of control employees enjoy over a single decision
  2. The issues over which that control is exercised, and
  3. The organisational level at which is is exercised.

Focusing on control, an organisation with minimal democracy in the workplace will operate on the basis of ‘consultation’, through techniques such as an ‘impersonal suggestion box scheme’ or workers given ‘prior notice’ of management’s decisions so that they can voice their views and perhaps stimulate reconsideration. In contrast, an organisation with greater or even full workplace democracy will feature a workers’ council that is superior to the management body, joint power or partnership with managers, and elected management roles and the power for employees to remove people from positions of management. A basic threshold of democratic participation is that workers are able to ‘initiate criticisms and suggestions’ and discuss them face-to-face with managers. Bernstein calls this ‘co-operation or co-influence’.

The range of issues that employees may have democratic control over start from their physical working conditions and personal safety, through to setting salaries, promoting executives, and (in the context of a private firm) division of the profits. Bernstein groups the issues into control over the worker’s own work, control over the organisation’s means, and control over the organisation’s goals.

Finally, the domain or level of participation refers to not only the level at which employees might have representation (e.g. on the Board of Governors), but also the extent to which they can exercise real power at that level. Employee representation at the upper levels of an organisation is more effective (i.e. they wield more democratic power), when all other levels of the organisation are also democratised (i.e. ‘gaps’ are ‘filled in’ with methods of direct and representative democracy), so that the upper level is brought into more contact with the real issues and concerns of workers in the organisation. Achieving democracy at all levels of the organisation means that employees are able to “exert influence at the very points where they have most expertise.” (2012, 54)

The qualities of leadership in democratic organisations are, according to Bernstein, based on a conscious recognition of the power that the person in a position of influence holds and how they choose to use that power, based on a set of values, personal goals and beliefs. The traits that Bernstein identifies (2012, 98) as fostering or facilitating democratisation are:

  • A policy of educating the managed i.e. open access to information (as opposed to secrecy)
  • Confidence in others – hence: willingness to listen and to delegate responsibility (rather than an attitude of mistrust and intense supervision)
  • Governing by merit, explanation, and consent of governed (rather than governing from a formal position of power)
  • Awareness of one’s own fallibility; admits errors to managed (rather than the belief that the leader must set an example to others by appearing infallible and hiding their mistakes)
  • Reciprocity (rather than paternalism); and
  • Egalitarian values (as opposed to a desire to maintain exclusive prerogatives).

Bernstein notes that well-intentioned managers might select one or two of these traits of leadership, but find they conflict with traditional values of managerial privilege. What is needed is recognition that effective democracy requires a “systemic” approach and that this involves a change in the “whole consciousness” of leaders in positions of power.

Likewise, the framework for co-operative higher education should be understood as an open, practical and coherent framework for democratising the governance and management of higher education in a systemic way.

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