How to set up our own free university

Making a Copenhagen Free University Manual: How to set up our own free university.

The aim of this workshop is to compile a manual to be used to set up a Free University. The manual will be compiled starting from the experience of the Copenhagen Free University, the material available on its website, the knowledge the participants could have of CFU or other free universities.

With this workshop we’ll try to codify into a manual what of the Copenhagen Free University is available to us – the participants to the workshop. By doing this we will invert the usual procedure that goes from the one who knows how to do something, to the one who needs to learn how to do it: we don’t have (much) experience and knowledge of free universities, but we still try to compile a manual for us (and someone else) to be able to set up a free university.

Our challenge would be to hold together the universality of scope of a manual (a manual as something that everybody should be able to make use of) and our specificity, that is, the motivations and desires of us, the participants of the workshop. This manual will be conceived not just for general users but also for us: us who would like to set up a Free University, us who would like to open up the possibility of thinking about setting up such a university. In order for this “us” to come together, the workshop will not be imposed onto the whole group of the symposium’s participants, and it will be not conducted by someone, rather, it will be run collectively by everyone interested in participating.

Still, as an “instruction”, I would invite people who are interested in free schools and would like to participate in the workshop to bring some material to share (for instance, something that one could pick up from the CFU website).

The workshop could be structured in three moments:

1 Collective introduction / discussion: What is a manual? (the other symposium’s activities can be used to address this question)

2 Gathering and sharing knowledge about free universities (each participants will present an aspect related to CFU or another free university): what is a free university? how to set up a free university?

3 Processing the knowledge shared producing a set of instructions (indications) for a manual. The CFU website could be used to find a way for this translation of knowledge and non-knowledge into instructions to take place.

One of the questions we will deal with during this workshop is: what is a free university? How does it differ (how does the CFU differ) from the university as we know it: Copenhagen University, Goldsmiths, Freie Universitat (what is the meaning of this “Freie” here)? How would a “really free” university differ from both an increasingly privatized “public” university and a “free” university that functions as part of the neoliberal model of the Big Society?

In this workshop we will also have to address the gap between theory and practice, reading and making, that a manual strongly exposes: how to make use of this gap? The gap between experienced experience (CFU) / the manual / experience to be experienced (by us who are going to set up a free school). The challenge here would be to both codify an existent experience (who is not ours) by turning it into a set of practical indications (for us and someone else to be used), and to keep open the possibility for something else to take place, for a different experience to happen – even a disastrous one.

Manual by Paolo Plotegher, presented by Sidsel Nelund and Trine Friis Sørensen

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