Heather McKnight

University of Sussex

Thesis title: Cooperation and Resistance between Trade Unions and Students’ Unions from 1970 - Present Day

The project provides an analysis of the relationships between Trade Unions and Students’ Unions in the UK, to identify potential opposition or reinforcement to the marketisation of education, which many in the unions feel will impact negatively on the quality and sense of social responsibility within the UK Education system. This feeling has been particularly prevalent since the Browne Report in 2009 and subsequent changes in quality management and funding, which many saw as making Higher Education an adjunct of corporate values and interests.  This  piece of work dissects current understandings of the strengths and weaknesses of these potentially powerful partners, and their speculative futures. 
There is currently a deficit of academic research on this topic from 1970 onwards when the National Union of Students (NUS) dropped their ‘No Politics Clause’ at their 1969 conference, and became active in trying to engage with the TU movement.  By developing a new approach in discourse analysis based on an integration of the utopian processes of Ernst Bloch and the geneological approach of Foucault.  It will shed new light on the past, present and the future of workers’ and students’ intersected unionisations. This work will be interdisciplinary in nature and intends to impact on policy and practice in both movements.

Supervised by Dr Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Dr Emily Robinson, Dr Ben Fincham

About me

Heather McKnight is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Sussex Law Department, studying the relationship between Trade Unions and Students’ Unions from 1970 onwards from a critical utopian perspective. She is a co-editor for the Critical Studies Journal, on a member of the Critical Studies Research Group Steering Committee at the University of Brighton, and a member of the University of Sussex Research Cluster on Radical Temporalities. Coming from a working background in equalities, campaigning and education research, she has worked for charities, students’ unions and local government, and has also been an elected member of the NUS Scotland Women’s Committee.  She is founder of the social enterprise Magnetic Ideals which works on projects that use creative and artistic ways of bringing communities together to create social change, where she works as an independent researcher on relations between Trade Unions and Students Unions, the impact of community engagement by Universities, and the ethics and practice of student engagement with academic quality processes.  

Research interests

Critical Utopian Studies; Critical Legal Studies; Protest and Resistance; Politics of Education; Representation and Democracy; Trade and Student Unionism; Identity and Conflict; Radical Temporalities; Gender Representation in Utopia and Dystopia; Sociology of Law

Find out more about me

Twitter: @Heat_McKnight
University of Sussex Profile