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Honours programmes for everyone?

It is not just for the very best students, but for everyone that philosopher René Gabriëls started his own honours programme on Wednesday 14 December at five o’clock in the afternoon, in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ bar. As a protest and outside the curriculum.

Weird practices and critical theories was the title of the course that, as far as René Gabriëls is concerned, will continue for as long as it takes the world to become more just and democratic. With the subtitle: Post honours programme. The idea for this project was born from the dissatisfaction with the present education system at the university. “I am fundamentally against every form of unjustified elitism, such as honours programmes and the (fortunately by now abolished) 3% ruling. The latter was some kind of PR stunt by the UM. Now only a small number of students - those with the best marks - are able to get a real academic education. My position is: everybody pays the same lecture fees, so everyone has a right to the same education. I have nothing against differences (they will always be there, one will work harder and most likely do better), but I am for equal opportunities.”

In the present education system, there is also too little room to actually read a book from cover to cover, Gabriëls argues. His students will at any rate read Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault. They will also frequently encounter critical theories by, for example, Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Rancière or Judith Butler. “In the regular curriculum, we mainly focus (with a few exceptions) on mainstream theories, on what contributes to maintaining the status quo, while critical theories can help abolish those situations in which people are oppressed, despised or marginalised.”

Gabriëls expects (the course started Wednesday after Observant went to press) a full house in the Bandito Espresso bar. “Everyone is welcome, including members of staff, administrative and support staff and students from other faculties. The first time will be about the Occupy Movement. Quite appropriate: occupying something that must be won back. We should occupy the UM to win back the real academy for everyone.” Does he expect any resistance? Grinning: “No, they won’t take it serious and say that it's the village idiot organising an extracurricular activity.”


Riki Janssen



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