Professor Ron Barnett

    • AcSocSc, DLit, PhD, MPhil, BA, PGCE, DipEd, FSRHE, FHEA
    • Emeritus Professor of Higher Education
    • Consultant
  • Department:
  • Centre:
  • Summary:
    • I have a particular interest in the theory and conceptualisation of higher education and for the last thirty years, I have been trying to develop a social philosophy of the university. I have also been trying to offer conceptual resources that might help universities to realise their potential for personal and social wellbeing.

      Issues that I have tackled include:
      • The idea of higher education in the twenty-first century
      • Knowledge and the university
      • Professional education
      • Quality matters
      • Being a student
      • Reshaping the curriculum
      • The relationship between research and teaching
      • Academic identity
      • Being a university

      I also work as a consultant and my work has taken me to the West Indies, India and Austria as well as clients across the UK. Recently, I have acted for the Higher Education Authority as the academic lead for a major programme of work, leading to a report of mine, (2014) 'Conditions of Flexibility: Securing a More Responsive Higher Education System'. You are welcome to contact me directly: please see my contact details above.
  • Research:
    • My work consists of scholarly research into the nature of the contemporary university and higher education. Perhaps the central question in front of me over the past three decades is this: 'What is a university? How have we understood the idea of the university and what feasible, if utopian, ideas are available for the university of the twenty-first century?'
  • Professional Activities:
    • These include:
      • Senior Fellow, Department of Education, University of Oxford
      • Visiting Professor, University of West London
      • Visiting Professor, Kingston University
      • Visiting Professor, Charles Sturt University, Australia
      • Associate, Higher Education Academy (and author of 2014 HEA report, 'Conditions of Flexibility: Securing a More Responsive Higher Education System').

      I am also active in:
      • St Mary's University (member, Research and Scholarship Committee)
      • School of Advanced Study, University of London (member, Audit and Quality Standards Committee).
  • Conferences/presentations:
    • Recent international presentations include:
      • Invited talk, Organization and Newness Conference, Marburg, Germany: 'Towards the Creative University'

      • 'Understanding the University', invited seminar, University of Waikato, New Zealand.

      • Canada, Vancouver:
      • 'Imagining the University: beyond an impoverished understanding', Keynote Talk, National Association of Vice-Presidents annual conference
      • 'Realising the Ecological University', invited talk at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
      • 'Policy, what Policy? Considering the University in the Twenty-first Century', Centre for Higher Education and Training, University of British Columbia.

      • Miri, Malaysia:
      • 'Learning to Be: A hopeful idea for an uncertain world', seminar, Curtin University, Sarawak campus
      • 'Imagining the University: towards an ecological higher education', keynote talk, International Conference on Teaching and Learning.

      • 'Policy, what Policy? Considering the University in the Twenty-first Century', Department of Education, University of Leuven, Belgium.

      • 'Reasoning the University', guest lecture at invitation symposium, University of Uppsala, Sweden.

  • Personal Country Knowledge:
    • I have been a guest speaker in around 35 countries across the world, including visiting many countries on several occasions (including Australia, New Zealand, China, Finland, Sweden and Japan).
  • Media Appearances:
    • I speak frequently to the media and am happy to continue to do so.
Professor Ron Barnett

Staff profile

Contact details


  • Barnett, R (2012) 'The Coming of the Ecological University', Oxford Review of Education 37 (4) , 439-455.
  • Barnett, R. (2012) 'Towards an Ecological Professionalism' in C. Sugrue and T. Dyrdal Solbrekke (eds.) , Professional Responsibility: New Horizons of Praxis. Abingdon (Routledge).
  • Barnett, R. (Editor) (2012) The Future University: Ideas and Possibilities. London (Routledge).
  • Barnett, R. (2011) Being a University. Routledge.
  • Barnett, R. (2011) 'Learning about Learning: a conundrum and a possible resolution', London Review of Education 9 (1), 5-13.
  • Barnett, R. (2010) 'Knowing and Becoming in the Higher Education Curriculum', Studies in Higher Education 34 (4), 429-440.
  • Barnett, R. (2010) 'Marketised University: defending the indefensible' Molesworth, M., Nixon, L. and Scullion, R. (eds), The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. London: Routledge.
  • Barnett, R. (2009) 'Knowledge Interests and Knowledge Policies: Re-thinking the University in the Twenty-First Century' Rethinking the University after Bologna: New Concepts and Practices beyond Tradition and the Market. Antwerp: Universitair Centrum Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen.
  • Maxwell, N. and Barnett, R. (Eds) (2009) Wisdom in the University (paperback reissue). Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Barnett, R. (2007) A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/ Open University Press.
  • Full list of publications - download as a pdf