We believe that the Higher Education system is broken. Soaring student debt, staff on precarious contracts and Vice Chancellors taking home astronomical salaries. We think there’s a different way. A more co-operative way.

What's our plan?

As the apex body of co-operative education in the UK, we are working with other co-operative educators, academics, students, practitioners and critical friends to explore various models of co-operative higher education, the idea of a co-operative university and the prospect of degree awarding powers made possible as a result of the UK Higher Education Research Act 2017. This has taken the shape of a more formal process following on from the Co-operative University Conference in November 2017.

Two distinct networks emerged out of the Co-operative University conference:

  • The Co-operative University Forum (CUF) a dedicated ‘practical issues’ advisory group committed to helping  to support the development of a co-operative university linked to the Co-operative College, through roundtable discussions. CUF members and the roundtable experts are working pro bono and we greatly appreciate their help and support.
  • The Co-operative Higher Education Network (CHEN) – a general purpose mailing list which can be subscribed to here.

Timeline: 2017-present

We've provided a handy timeline below which plots our progress towards setting up a co-operative university.

  • Following the 2017 Co-operative University Conference, we met with the two higher education regulators, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to explore the idea of the College acquiring degree awarding powers in its own right alongside the development of a federated co-operative university model. At these meetings we discussed the radical nature of our ideas for a future co-operative university including:
    • An alternative member driven democratic governance and ownership
    • Co-operative pedagogy and accreditation
    • A distinctive approach to student fees and funding 
  • We have registered our expression of interest with the Office for Students and more recently, our CEO and Vice Principal both attended an Office for Students information event in Manchester. The plans for acquiring degree awarding powers and developing a model for a future Co-operative University are on track. 

May 2018

  • Our Education and Research Conference in May 2018 contained a strand dedicated to a future co-operative university and saw many co-operative educators, academics, students, practitioners come together to share ideas and further refine the planning and modelling of the co-operative university. 
  • Three expert roundtables have now been held on co-operative governance, co-operative pedagogy and fees and funding. A draft governance model for a federated university has been produced as a working document and new developments are taking place to create an innovative co-operative curriculum. This would realign co-operative education and the idea of the federated co-operative university with the wider adult and higher education movements, so that mutually relevant curricula can be developed and shared. 

June 2018

  • Members of the CUF plus new critical friends met at our HQ in Manchester to conceptualise and draft the various documentation for our submission for degree awarding powers. Over the three days, much fresh thinking was done on teaching, learning and research approaches, as well as the governance and ownership of the co-operative university and relationships within the federation.  Prior to submission ahead of the 31st August deadline, the documentation will go out to the wider co-operative education network for consultation. 

July 2018

  • At a board meeting in July 2018 our trustees recommitted our support to the co-operative university project, and we're delighted to say the project remains on track. 

August 2018

Well we did it!! We've submitted our application for Degree Awarding Powers to the Office for Students on the 31st August 2018.  Whilst we're waiting to hear back, we'll continue to think about and explore what a future Co-operative University might look like.

We'd like to say thanks again to all of those colleagues and associates working with us towards this aspiration! We'll be posting more updates to this page over the coming weeks and months, so keep checking back.

You can also subscribe to our newsletter below to be kept up to date with the latest developments.

Sign up to our newsletter