Who are universities for?

Who are universities for? argues that we need to re-think higher education, who studies there and how education fits into the changing shape of our lives. It starts by showing how narrowly universities currently imagine who they are for. Read more about the proposals.

Tom wrote the book with Josie McLellan, who is a historian, and Richard Pettigrew, a philosopher.

It’s received some nice praise…

“Urgent, radical and prescriptive this polemic provides a radical manifesto for Higher Education in the era of the millennials. In the wake of student debt, a lack of social mobility and excess at the top it breaks open the sterile complacency that has for too long gone unchallenged.” David Lammy, MP

“An important book that brims with ideas for transforming HE for a diverse, inclusive, post-disciplinary world. Refreshingly radical.” Tim Blackman, VC of the Open University

“A mix of shrewd practical proposals, egalitarian humanism and utopian vision.” Professor Simon Marginson

The book was published in September 2018 with Bristol University Press and launched at an event with the Brigstow Institute with nearly 200 people and speakers including Nasra Ayub, Nicola Dandridge and Afzal Shah. Erik Lithander is pictured below closing the event.

A policy briefing, Universities should be accessible to everyone, is available with Policy Bristol.


Jana Bacevic calls the book ‘a highly necessary blend of critical humanist analysis and concrete policy proposals’ in a review-essay for the LSE Review of Books.

Julia Bell, in the Times Literary Supplement, calls it ‘well-researched and persuasive’.

Michael O’Sullivan, in the Hong Kong Review of Books, calls the book ‘unique in the field’ and say he has ‘never read a more moving presentation of the case for systemic change to our meritocratic and deeply unfair university system.’

Jacob Richardson, for Social Review, calls it, ‘a groundbreaking plan for overhauling the universities system… [a] radical blueprint—making even the dreaming spires of Oxbridge [into] Open Universities.’


The beautiful cover image for the book is by Thierry Bal.