Panel debate in HEPP SIG: (Un)willing academic work - Between complicity and critique

Date: March 2, 2022, 15.00 - 16.30 Central European Time (CET) (UTC+1)

Venue: Online

Fee: Free and open to all

Registration deadline: 
February 24, 2022


HEPP is the special interest group (SIG) Link Arrow ‘Higher Education Policy and Practice’ under the Danish Network for Educational Development in Higher Education, DUN.

This panel debate addresses the complexities and contradictions present in universities today, where academics often work (un)willingly to implement agendas they do not whole-heartedly support - or which they only partially support, and perhaps not as explicitly as they could do, due to various cultural-critical conventions.

Within universities, there is widespread international criticism of what is often broadly referred to as neoliberal agendas. In the case of Denmark, the governing structure implemented in 2003 emphasizing a string of command, clarity, accountability, and production is criticized for having turned the university into a business instead of a collegium of students and scholars. Often, aspects of such criticism are shared by scholars, students, and organizational leaders alike. The people in and of the university.

However, most students, scholars, and leaders at the samte time agree that students should get jobs, that universities should strive to be of relevance to society, and that scholars should publish regularly. But most also agree that short-sighted external audits and oversight by politicians, foundations, or businesses to assure productivity are not ideal ways of leading universities and the higher education curriculum.

In our daily work, many academics engage in and even implement models of education, design formats for research projects, and partake in administrative tasks and agenda setting, which implicitly and explicitly help realise the “neoliberal” university’s vision of producing useful outcomes, i.e., jobs, results, and problem-solving. In effect, students, scholars, and leaders are “in the same boat”, participating in upholding neoliberal agendas through a variety of motivations e.g., excelling, publishing, designing great courses and programs, making the university climb the ranking tables, or simply pragmatically “surviving” within the current socio-economic climate of institutions today.

The aim of the panel debate is to engage in an open and critical conversation between students, scholars, and leaders about the complexities and contradictions of working within the Danish universities today, departing from the recognition that we are in this together and need to collaborate towards sustainable university and higher education futures.


  • Hans Fink, Docent Emeritus, Aarhus University
  • Asger Sørensen, Associate Professor, Aarhus University
  • Hanne Leth Andersen, Rector, Roskilde University
  • Rie Troelsen, Centre Director, University of Southern Denmark
  • Matej Zitnansky, MA, former representative of the European Students’ Union (ESU)

Event organisers

  • Jakob E. Feldt, Professor, Roskilde University
  • Serge Pascal Johannes M. Horbach, Postdoc, Aarhus University
  • Laura Louse Sarauw, Associate Professor, Roskilde University
  • Søren S.E. Bengtsen, Associate Professor, Aarhus University
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