Jim Luke

Published On


Page Range

pp. 161–182


  • English

Print Length

22 pages

6. Closing the factory: Reimagining higher education as commons

This chapter describes the evolution of higher education’s social imaginaries over time. It depicts first the “elite knowledge commons”, an imaginary remarkably similar across civilizations that produced great public goods but was accessible only to an elite. In response to industrialization, as well as economic and technological developments over the past 150 years, the imaginary evolved into a “knowledge factory”. This second imaginary has succeeded in expanding access and human knowledge, but it has come at great costs to human individuality, creativity, and cultures, while maintaining elite control. Ultimately, the goal of the knowledge factory, learning at scale, cannot work. I propose that academics and societies can and should create a third imaginary, a new knowledge commons, based in Elinor Ostrom and related scholars’ work on the success of commons as collaborative social institutions, and grounded in open pedagogies and practices. The new knowledge commons promises to humanize higher education.


Jim Luke

Professor of Economics and former Open Learning Faculty Fellow at Lansing Community College

Jim Luke is professor of economics and former Open Learning Faculty Fellow at a community college in Michigan (USA), where he created the Open Learning Lab, a web-based pedagogy innovation incubator. Jim has expertise in strategic planning, organisational development, innovation, technology, open education and open pedagogy, economic history, and institutional economics. His current research interests include commons as alternative economic systems and diversity in higher education.