In the World Library of Educationalists series, international scholars compile career-long selections of what they judge to be among their finest pieces so the world has access to them in a single manageable volume. Readers are able to follow the themes and strands and see how their work contributes to the development of the field.

Over more than three decades, Professor Ronald Barnett has acquired a distinctive position as a leading philosopher of the university and higher education, and this volume brings together 15 of his key writings, particularly papers from leading journals. This volume also includes, as his introductory chapter, an intellectual autobiography, in which Professor Barnett recounts the history of his scholarship and writing, traces its development across five stages, and identifies the themes and sources of inspiration that lie within his corpus of work.

Ronald Barnett has described his corpus of work as a social philosophy of the university that is at once conceptual, critical, practical and imaginative. His concepts of criticality, critical interdisciplinarity, supercomplexity and the ecological university have been taken up in the literature across the world. Through telling examples, and with an incisive clarity of writing, Ronald Barnett’s scholarship has helped to illuminate in fresh ways and reorient practices in the university and in higher education. The chapters in this volume reveal all of these qualities so making this volume a compelling overview of a passionate and yet constructive critic of the university.

chapter |21 pages


part I|68 pages

The university

chapter 1|10 pages

Supercomplexity and the university

chapter 2|13 pages

Situating the learning university

chapter 4|12 pages

The idea of the university in the twenty-first century

Where’s the imagination?

chapter 5|17 pages

The coming of the ecological university

part II|82 pages

Higher education

chapter 6|18 pages

Higher education

Legitimation crisis

chapter 7|16 pages

Does higher education have aims?

chapter 8|13 pages

Convergence in higher education

The strange case of ‘Entrepreneurialism’

chapter 10|18 pages

Institutions of higher education

Purposes and ‘performance indicators’

part III|72 pages

Students and learning

chapter 11|14 pages

Supercomplexity and the curriculum

chapter 12|12 pages

Learning about learning

A conundrum and a possible resolution

chapter 13|16 pages

Being and becoming

A student trajectory

chapter 14|16 pages

Learning for an unknown future

chapter 15|12 pages

Configuring learning spaces

Noticing the invisible

chapter |6 pages


Threads of an academic life