It is hard to think of a time when Universities had been in greater peril. Our list of grievances is long: the transformation of students into highly indebted “consumers”; the reliance of austere institutions on legions of underpaid and demoralized precarious teaching staff, contrasted; the rise of an overpaid corporate-style managerial class; the increasing marketization of education and private influence over research and learning; the attack on the humanities and social sciences; and the general shift of academic spaces towards competitiveness, fear and conservatism. As the university is transfigured from an institution dedicated to the public good to one oriented towards offering a privatized commodity it is more than clear that academics cannot sit by and watch. The time has come for those committed to study, research and learning to create new models that reflect the values of cooperativism and the commons.
The Cooperative Institute for Transnational Studies (CITS) is an independent radical institution of higher learning run by its members. It was formed in 2015 by academics from universities from many countries, leaders in their respective fields, who wanted to resist the neoliberal degradation of higher education. We came together to create an institution in which research, teaching and learning are integrated, dignified, collaborative, joyful and dedicated to the cause of radical social transformation. We aim to mobilize the tools of the social sciences and humanities with and for social movements as they and we struggle against capitalism and oppression and for radical grassroots social and economic democracy. Our aim to build a new university from the bottom up based on these values, recognizing and exploring what academia can contribute to these struggles..
We fundamentally believe that common research study must be a collaborative, participatory and liberating experience, one integrated into and committed to social struggle. As such, we actively work to challenge and break down traditional hierarchies of knowledge and authority and create an educational environment that empowers and energizes all participants.
How we are organized
Each department of CITS is an autonomous cooperative, run by its faculty and participants based on the principles of cooperation, democracy and solidarity. CITS as an institution is the umbrella organization that coordinates the autonomous departments and establishes general university policies, strategic alignment and institutional representation. CITS is neither public nor private, it is a commons, run by and for its workers and participants based on the values of collaboration, solidarity, mutual support, and cooperativism. As a cooperative, any surplus resources generated are recycled in the organization to increase and expand its capacities.
CITS is governed by several bodies. The highest level of decision-making is the General Assembly (GA) of all members, teaching scholars and student scholars, which meets 2 times per year or whenever is needed according to Advisory Board or upon request of members. Its operations are overseen and guided by an international Advisory Board (AB), and made up of representatives, teaching scholars and student scholars of the various autonomous departments. The General Assembly, also appoints an Executive Board (EB), which runs the day-to-day affairs of the Institute.
The Executive Board consists of the Coordinators that each Department chooses to assign.
The Cooperative Institute for Transnational Studies (CITS) structure and organization reflect our radical principles and methodologies. The management of finances will be open, transparent and available online. All academic and other workers receive equal pay for equal work. Fees, held at minimal levels, will be used to cover operational expenses, research projects, and needs-based bursaries.
We currently have no official accreditation, but are exploring options to gain the ability to grant recognized degrees, so long as this does not threaten the autonomy and principles of CITS. Until then, we will grant our own degrees and each student-scholar will receive a certificate in higher education, with an extensive written transcript detailing their academic and intellectual accomplishments. This portfolio of work created during the course of their studies with the CITS may be useful for demonstrating these accomplishments to potential employers and/or universities and colleges, where it may in some cases be accepted as evidence of Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) and the European Qualification Framework.