Cover of The Alternative University by Mariya P. Ivancheva
The Alternative University
Lessons from Bolivarian Venezuela
Mariya P. Ivancheva


June 2023
216 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503634749
Ebook ISBN: 9781503636026

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Over the last few decades, the decline of the public university has dramatically increased under intensified commercialization and privatization, with market-driven restructurings leading to the deterioration of working and learning conditions. A growing reserve army of scholars and students, who enter precarious learning, teaching, and research arrangements, have joined recent waves of public unrest in both developed and developing countries to advocate for reforms to higher education. Yet even the most visible campaigns have rarely put forward any proposals for an alternative institutional organization. Based on extensive fieldwork in Venezuela, The Alternative University outlines the origins and day-to-day functioning of the colossal effort of late President Hugo Chávez's government to create a university that challenged national and global higher education norms.

Through participant observation, extensive interviews with policymakers, senior managers, academics, and students, as well as in-depth archival inquiry, Mariya Ivancheva historicizes the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), the vanguard institution of the higher education reform, and examines the complex and often contradictory and quixotic visions, policies, and practices that turn the alternative university model into a lived reality.

This book offers a serious contribution to debates on the future of the university and the role of the state in the era of neoliberal globalization, and outlines lessons for policymakers and educators who aspire to develop higher education alternatives.

About the author

Mariya P. Ivancheva is Senior Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Strathclyde.

"In a world in dire need of alternatives to a neoliberal model that declared we no longer have any, Mariya Ivancheva reminds us that the semiperiphery has always taught the world-system important lessons. The book is a powerful plea for a radical response to commodified higher education, for treading carefully among the contradictions inherent to revolutionary projects and against presentism."

—Manuela Boatcă, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg

"The Alternative University underscores the way that the neoliberalization and marketisation of higher education is a truly global process. This extremely powerful and ethnographically documented account of the inner workings of an alternative university poses some searching questions about university autonomy, the historical role of student movements, and the subsequent role of leaders of those movements in both the academy and politics."

—John Gledhill, University of Manchester