Tag Archives: free education

Mental health, post-fordism, and animals

6 May
Imperial College Stress Less campaign

Imperial College Stress Less campaign

A friend of mine told me about an email sent to Imperial College students – there will be farm animals and a bouncy castle on campus this term to help deal with exam stress. We had a good laugh about this – we’d just been to a fantastic discussion on Mental Health and Post-Fordism as part of the Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working series – and now here, Imperial had given yet another example of the ‘privatization of stress’ that Mark Fisher had been describing. I love petting animals as much as the next person, but it was the ludicrousness that petting some animals for an afternoon would address 3-4 years of mental torment, as we labour under debt accumulating to tens of thousands of pounds. Student anxiety, depression, stress, suicide could be dealt with by providing students with some farm animals, ignoring the alienating, destructive, intensely pressurised, and increasingly privatized education system which creates such feelings. Through the seemingly innocuous petting of a cow or session on the bouncy castle, students’ mental health issues are decontextualised and seen as specific to individuals and therefore the ‘solutions’ are similarly individualised and superficial. Petting therapy is certainly easier than an overhaul of the education system and also gives Imperial another ‘student experience’ selling point – “your time here will be shit, but you’ll get to pet a rabbit.” Facing £9,000 a year fees and perpetual examination, too right you’d expect some farm animals thrown into the deal.

(My friend also expressed sadness that the petting zoo is a one day event, rather than a more long term feature of Imperial, as they had been lead to believe.)

Free education

13 Feb

Last week, I had the best unemployment day yet (although this is not to undermine the often grim reality of being unemployed – unemployed people face stigma, pitiful benefits, and often suffer lower life expectancies in comparison to their waged counterparts – however, sometimes it can be fun to have free time). After three years of intensive study at university (I know people have this idea of students as lazy, but it is quite hard work, and what with all the pressure on yourself as a result of the debt you’ve taken on as well), I finally felt relaxed and well rested. Browsing the internet I also found loads of interesting things that were going on around London for free – I got really excited and started adding them to my diary. Whilst there are lots of things I miss about student life, including the generous bursary that I received, I realised that it’s perfectly possible to get yourself a top education for free. And with the ludicrous fees that are now being charged, as well as the changes that the government are trying to impose on universities which will mean they become even more commercialised than they already are, perhaps free education is the way forward. I thought I’d share some of my discoveries – and if you have any ideas, please feel free to contribute.

As well as being free, it is important that education is critical, and that it isn’t just understood as lectures and reading books, but can be conceived of in different ways, ways that are fun, inclusive, and participatory. Hopefully I’ll discover more sites of alternative pedagogy during my unemployed travels and I’ll be sure to report back.

As well as Free education, perhaps I should expand also to include Free London. I was in Waterstones the other day and found a nice little book called ‘Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing to Do a Day in London’ by Tom Jones. It had lots of good suggestions about cool things to do in our wonderful metropolis (did you know the street lamps in Covent Garden and along Green Park and the Mall are gas lamps? pretty cool), however, some of these included visiting fancy cafes, and other extravagant things, so perhaps I could do an alternative that focussed on free explorations, places, and activities.

Free education

Tent City University – Occupy London St Paul’s

Tent City has largely wound down now, but in it’s heyday, it hosted some great speakers and many lively debates – although perhaps it was a little too set on the conventional academic format of lecturer lectures at audience then audience gets to ask questions. Maybe it could have attempted to push the boundaries a little bit and experimented with different ways of learning that weren’t dependent on old middle class white men. This criticism aside, Tent City shows us that we can make our own free and open spaces for learning. I hope we’ll give this a try again sometime soon.

Public lectures at the London School of Economics

I’ve been attending loads of these recently – Paul Mason on why it’s kicking off everywhere, New Economics Foundation on the 21 hour working week, and Richard Sennett on cooperation – there’s a huge programme of really interesting talks and sometimes they even have a reception afterwards with hummus and pitta! Check their website for new additions to the programme and for other free festivals that are held at the LSE – for example, Wednesday 29th February-Saturday 3rd March is the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival.

The British Library (and the Wellcome library just down the road opposite Euston Station)

Here you can access any book published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The British Library also has exhibitions on as well as numerous reading rooms where you can sit and work (once you’ve registered to become a member, which is free and open to everyone). I’ve been meaning to go there to read the International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest as it sounds like an exciting read.

Or how about the Women’s library http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/thewomenslibrary/


Obviously, the internet is a brilliant free resource. I’m sure there’s loads of great websites with videos and all sorts (oh yes, mustn’t forget David Harvey’s video lecture course on Marx’s Capital – I’ve been meaning to do this for years! And Capital volume 2 is being added http://davidharvey.org/) – but maybe it’s a bit overwhelming to know where to start. That’s where I’ve found Twitter so useful. Basically I’ve followed a load of people who I think seem cool and interesting – through this I’ve found all sorts of interesting articles that they’ve included in their tweets or shout outs for events. You can also pretty much just tweet a question that’s been bothering you and I’m sure someone would get back to you with an answer.


Walking around the city, whether by yourself or in a group, is also a great way to learn about your local area or other parts of London. Experiencing the city first hand is one of the best ways of learning geography. There are all sorts of fascinating objects placed around the city.

These are just some ideas for getting yourself free education, this will be updated…