Professor Ronald Barnett


Please choose a menu item to see some recent comments on Ronald Barnett's activites, which have been grouped by category:

- Writing
- Conference keynotes and talks
- Seminars and workshops
- Other comments



  • (comment on my book Being a University, in column of scholar-reviewers in Times Higher Education, 10-16 January 2013): ‘This is a beautiful and elegant effort, bringing clarity to the tortuous debate about what universities are for … (with) a near literary style that is highly pleasing …’
  • (following talk in Cambridge, Philosophy of Education Renewal conference, Sept 2013): ‘Thank you for such an inspirational book and talk …’
  • (endorsement to an edited volume – ‘Academic Working Lives’: ‘Amongst many insightful contributors, Ron Barnett deserves special mention for his chapter …’
  • (comments on a contribution for an international encyclopedia, Nov 2015): ‘What a marvellous piece - a masterpiece as far as I am concerned. You have managed an almost impossible task and handled the theme most thoughtfully and eloquently. Thank you so much!
  • (comments on a recent book of mine in an article in the Times Higher Education magazine, 29 Oct 2015): ‘I commend to you the work of Ron Barnett and his book Imagining the University. In this seminal work, Barnett throws out a challenge to all of us involved in the too-often overly managerial task of corporate or strategic planning …’
  • (comments on Foreword of mine from the author of a manuscript, Nov 2015): ‘Thank you, this is absolutely delightful.  I feel really honoured that you have provided this.'
  • (comment from a university professor on receiving my invited Foreword for a edited volume, March, 2016): ‘I am very grateful indeed, for the promptness, content and the elegance of your piece. Oh to be able to write as you do! So - a very big thank you.’
  • (comments from author on a Foreword to a book, February 2016): ‘My goodness Ron this is awesome.  I love it and you are so kind and generous with the way you have constructed your commentary.’
  • (out-of-the-blue email comment, from New Zealand): ‘Was just reading your work and I was reminded of how amazing your writing is.’
  • (comment from authors, following my writing a foreword for their book, June 2016): ‘I think it’s perfect … and very humbling to read!  I think you have captured the essence of our argument beautifully’.
  • (out-of-the-blue email, July 2016): ‘I have just read your article 'Learning for an unknown future' and feel so inspired by it … It has brought a lot into focus for me and I am delighted to have read such an articulate and thought-provoking piece.’
  • (out-of-the-blue email from a doctorate student in Canada, May 2017): ‘I am writing to you to tell you that I found your article inspiring and I plan to use your guiding principles.’
  • (comment from an Australian scholar, unknown to me):  Your inspirational research is always a pleasure to read.’
  •  (out-of-the-blue email from a person unknown to me): ‘I wanted to let you know that your work has made a considerable impression on me …’
  • (in an article by an Australian vice-chancellor): ‘Personally, I am drawn to Barnett’s idea of the ecological university, both for its intuitive appeal and for its empirical fit with [our university].’
  • (comment from a reviewer of a book proposal of mine): ‘[Ronald Barnett] has helped to define the field of higher education studies.’
  • (from an international colleague): ‘Not only have you created a new and original idea of the university for the 21st century … but you are also changing the institutional landscape and practices.  A sign of genius.’
  • (in an email from Australia, Aug 18): ‘I’m doing a PhD in Anthropology … I’ve been reading “Imagining the University” and “The Ecological University” … and they’ve given me hope! … I’ve used them in a blog post … so I thought I would send it to you …’
  • (following an invited Afterword): ‘Thank you, Ron, for a beautifully written Afterword. As always, your brilliance will add to our argument and we are privileged to have your contribution in the book.’
  • (from a major Australian policy report, Equity at and beyond the boundary of Australian universities, 2019): A substantial reference to my work that includes ‘This ecological institution has evolved through stages that in Barnett’s inimitable shorthand include …’
  • (from an academic abroad unknown to me): ‘Since all your writings are so inspiring for me, I wanted to share with you a paper of mine. Please feel no pressure to read it or respond. I am just happy that I sent you my text.
  • (comment on ResearchGate): ‘Thank you so much.  I have been reading you and I don’t know why universities have not understood all your contributions.  Thank you again!’
  • (comment from a book author, in the wake of a Foreword of mine, 2019): ‘I admire your pen, and your capacity to brilliantly keeping metaphors, and poetry, in interactive dialogue with concrete examples and everyday situations.  It elevates the text, stimulates reflection, and … makes it so accessible.  A rare gift!’
  • (from a university vice-chancellor, Dec 2019): ‘I have always followed your work and it is a big influence on my thinking over the years.’ 
  • (out-of-the-blue email from an academic who I’ve never met): ‘I feel as if I know you personally from all your books which have come to adorn my bookshelves over the past thirty years as an academic.’
  • (comment by the academic editor, on receiving my Foreword to a volume): ‘… we thought it a magnificent contribution’.
  • (from the editors of a volume, on receiving my Foreword): ‘We are in awe with your skill to write such an acute and inspiring forward in such a short time!  What do we think? We think that, in merely three pages, you have said it all!’


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Conference keynotes and talks

  • (email comment, following a seminar of mine): ‘… thank you for your honest and inspiring insight into your professional life … the students spent an hour talking about what they got from it, and I’ve had emails … saying what an impact you had.’
  • (on keynote talk at York St John University, July, 2013): ‘It was lovely to meet you and thank you again for giving such a brilliant keynote address. People very much enjoyed listening to you and I have heard many appreciative comments from many people. Thank you so very much for what you did – it was marvellous.’ 
  • (following keynote talk at conference of Vice-Presidents in Canada, 2013): ‘More thought-provoking speakers like Barnett.’
  • (email remark by host, after a seminar in Belgium, Dec 2013): ‘Allow me to thank you once again for the very inspiring lecture!’
  • (comment from the host of a major national conference on flexible learning): ‘Thank you too for such a great … and challenging keynote talk at the Future Directions conference. Amazing!’
  • (comment from a host of a major national conference on lifewide learning, April 2014): ‘I can tell you one person gave you 10 out of 5! I personally found your ideas inspiring …’
  • (from Deputy Vice-Chancellor, following a keynote to a university’s learning and teaching day, April 2015): ‘I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation finding  it both thought provoking and engaging as did everyone.’
  • (comment from host, following a seminar at a (Russell Group) university, April, 2014): ‘Can I thank you again for … such a stimulating presentation and discussion about your most recent thinking about the University. The event was very well received by my colleagues in our Centre but also by the wider university audience. For me personally, negotiating my own position within the 'management' structures at [x university], your observations on leadership were particularly thought provoking.’
  • (follow-up letter from host of an annual conference of a national body, April 2014)): ‘Thank you so much … Your engaging and inspiring talk …’ 
  • (follow-up email from host (Deputy Dean and senior professor) of a symposium in Uppsala, Sweden, May 2014): ‘Just wanted to send off a quick thanks for your inspiring lecture, your helpful comments and the pleasure of your company ...’
  • (following international conference in Denmark, Nov 2017): (from the organizer): ‘I’m so very grateful for your keynote at the conference, and your presence in general was very important and gave it all a lift!’  (In an email from a participant):  ‘Thanks again for your fabulous and inspiring talk at the Aarhus conference.’
  • (following invited seminar, Russell Group university, Jan 2018): ‘A huge thank you for your inspiring and thought-provoking seminar.  It was fantastic to be asked challenging questions ...’
  • (following a keynote talk in Germany, April 2018): ‘Thank you for your inspiring presentation.  Your speech gave me back hope.  It is the first speech, since I started at the university, which has inspired me and, more important, which was idealistic.  If the university isn’t the place for idealism, where should it be?’
  • (following a keynote in Greece, May 2018): ‘… Your contribution was inspiring and set the ground for the entire proceedings.’
  • (following a keynote in Australia, July 2018): ‘… I would like to thank you for your time and very inspirational keynote.’
  • (following a keynote in Dublin, May 2019): ‘Your personal warmth and genuine engagement with us as well as your knowledge and expertise were remarked upon throughout the day. Your address was hugely important in setting out not only the context and themes but also the tone of the conference [and] was noticeably collegial and supportive.’
  • (following a keynote in Uppsala, May 2019): ‘Your closing [keynote] had much to do to follow
  • the presentation prior to yours but I thought you did it brilliantly.  One of the best I have heard from you.  Uplifting.’
  • (from a conference organiser, July 2019): ‘your talk gave all the inspiration we were looking for ... It will certainly have a lasting impact!’
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Seminars and workshops

  • (email comment from participant in a seminar of mine): ‘Thanks for your session yesterday, I really enjoyed it.  Your book and your research deal with life … actually very passionate about it’.
  • (following seminar in University of Vancouver, Oct 2013): ‘I heard from my colleagues and a couple of students that you gave a truly great seminar …’  (from Head of Centre out of the country at that time)
  • (comments from company responsible for whole-day workshop on the curriculum, following my managing and chairing of it through the day): ‘… a big thank you for leading the event yesterday and all your help in the run up. … the delegates were extremely impressed by the day, with many highlighting its value to them.  I do hope I will have the pleasure of working with you again.’
  • (comments after an invited summing-up of a half-day developmental session for a university’s middle managers, April 2015):  ‘I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your fantastic summing up today’ (Professor and Dean); ‘Great reflections … and important comments …’ (Professor and Group leader); ‘Thank you so much for your intervention today – interesting, sharp and “spoken through the heart” … many thanks for helping us at [x university] with your ideas and enthusiasm …’
  • (feedback after a workshop session within a programme for an Omani delegation):  ‘Thank you enormously for your superb contribution to the Omani course yesterday - we had a paper feedback on learner satisfaction - you scored mostly excellents!’
  • (comments after a talk in Brussels to the steering committee of an international body, Oct 2014):  (from a college principal) ‘Many thanks for a great presentation – very inspirational!’ (From a senior professor) ‘Very many thanks for your inspiring talk the other day in Brussels … we all felt elevated and intrigued by what you had to say.’
  • (feedback after workshops with delegation of Chinese academic leaders, Oct 2019): ‘Many thanks for a superb second seminar on Friday … it was a highly stimulating, highly engaging and highly appreciated session.’ 


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Other comments

  •  (from a letter): ‘I found the experience of working on a book with you quite inspiring ...’
  •  (comment on being shown as a keynote speaker in the publicity for a conference in Malaysia): ‘What a scoop getting Ron Barnett!! … So theoretical and considered and he analyses the nature and meaning of universities with great sensitivity. A real draw card for you.’
  • (personal comment (Dec 2013) from a leading figure in UK higher education, now retired): ‘I wish I had had a fraction of the impact on HE that you have had.’
  • (personal comment (Dec 2013) from the Director of an independent consultancy and development agency): ‘Thanks Ron and thank you for giving us your support and encouragement. Your reputation as a scholar and thought leader counts a lot.’
  • (comment from a lecturer after one of my international trips): ‘Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Your work and working ethic have truly inspired me.’
  • (communication from lecturer in the Netherlands, April 2014): ‘Just to let you know: we have had a reading group among teachers at our university … on your 'A Will to Learn' and it produced a most amazing and inspiring conversation. It really felt as if your book gave us a language for the stuff we intuit, but could not properly articulate. The teachers with no philosophy background … were extremely enthusiastic …, saying that it gave them a whole range of new ways of looking at their everyday practices.’ 
  • (comments from the convenor on my stepping down from membership of an Editorial Board for an International publication, Jan 2016): ‘I have enjoyed working with you on this project and feel that without your input it would not have been half as successful as it has turned out to be. Thanks … for everything you have done.’
  • (reflective comment from former student, now a senior administrator): ‘You were, it feels, ahead of your time.’
  • (from a publisher, 2016): ‘It has been a great pleasure working with you … your professional and enthusiastic approach … is a trait I could only hope to find in other authors.’
  • (comment from course director, Australian university): ‘… your work has inspired much of the thinking behind the degree I run over here in Sydney.’
  • (comment from an academic, after an informal advisory meeting): ‘It was so good to speak with you –I went away feeling inspired!’
  • (out-of-the-blue email from a USA professor, May 2017): ‘Having found little in the way of literature on the philosophy of higher education, I am encouraged and inspired by your call for the development of such a sub-field.’
  • (email comments following lecture visit to Australia, July 2017):
    (State Government Education Department): ‘Thank you for your inspiring presentation and discussion yesterday.  The feedback … was glowing.’
    (An Australian educational association): ‘… thank you for contributing so generously to our Forum.  You gave us much to think about, question, imagine – a terrific start to (the) day …’
    (Following an impromptu action of mine during a talk): ‘I really wished I could have videoed you when you were working on the whiteboard!’
  • (comment from an international colleague): ‘Thank you so much Ron.  It is I that say thank you because you keep us on the job, and because of your thoroughness, which I hugely admire.’
  • (comment from a very experienced professor): ‘You are always so encouraging and generous in your praise. It has sustained me over the years and I know - from conversations with other colleagues - that your support has been invaluable. You are in my view - and in the view of many others - the great game-changer in higher education studies, raising it to an entirely different level.’ 
  • (from Professor Graham Badley):  "I have known Ron Barnett for a long time and regard him as the best of critical friends. He has been a great influence on my own work and has also encouraged me and supported me throughout my career. I devour his books, marvel at his productivity, admire his criticality even if, at times, we might emphasise different aspects of educational thought. My academic, and now my post-academic, writing has been and continues to be enriched by his stimulating ideas."
  • (in an email): ‘I’ve just finished reading ‘The Ecological University’: I think it’s a tremendous achievement. … I feel privileged to have witnessed your creativity at work over a number of years.  [It is remarkable] how many of your students have gone on to write books of their own.  It’s a very special gift to have inspired such creativity in others.’
  • (in an email from a person unknown to me): ‘I can’t thank you enough for your ideas and encouragement.  You’ve opened up my thinking in new ways, and improved the …[research] application greatly.’
  • (from a university leader): ‘It was such a joy and excitement to have you with us at … yesterday and to watch as active on the spot transformation occurred at the SLG.’
  • (out-of-the-blue comment from an academic unknown to me): ‘We need to keep the vital arguments you make in the forefront of people's minds in these challenging times. You are an inspiration, and your work principles for HEIs informs the principles of the framework I developed for research.’  
  • (following a conference keynote of mine): ‘I would like to say that it was a great pleasure to spend time with you last week. As I mentioned, I have read many of your books and found them very helpful to my thinking.  I (also) found your presentation very inspiring,’
  • (from a professor on the continent of Europe): ‘You have built, not just a (because there has been no one else), but, THE philosophy of the university and higher education. It wasn’t there before. It’s there now.’
  • (from a university professor): ‘You have been the unquestioned strongest influence on my academic life for the last 10 years, and continue to be an immensely bright star I try to navigate after. I owe you so much.’
  • (from a member of a university’s professional staff): ‘The phone-call we had … was integral in giving me the courage to pursue this project.’
  • (from a friend and collaborating colleague): ‘Working alongside of you, and learning from you continuously over the last 10 years has made me grow in a way I could not have imagined. And as a person too, there’s a fundamental ethics interwoven into the fabric of every dealing you have with people academically and personally. Perhaps that is the real foundation of the philosophy of higher education that you’ve built – it’s not only one of thinking, being, and understanding, but one of love, spirit, and life. That’s why it’s a philosophy of higher education and not merely a theory of higher education.’
  • (from an administrator and early academic): ‘I cannot articulate how grateful I am for your guidance that I have found in our interaction.’
  • (from a university professor outside the UK): ‘You inspire a research field. You inspire a world.’
  • (from a collaborator): ‘… loving this experience working with you ... inspiring!’
  • (a reported conversation): ‘Ron Barnett - he’s a legend!’
  • (out-of-the-blue comment in an email): ‘I have much appreciated your work and would love to meet you one of these days …’
  • (comment on an invited commentary on a draft report):  ‘Thank you so much for the attention you have devoted to this and [your] incredibly helpful comments ...’
  • (from an email from an unknown correspondent): ’I’m forwarding a recent article [of mine] that is clearly inspired and informed by your writings on higher education. I hope you will find the paper a tribute to your influence on my thinking. For a number of years, I have found your arguments a welcome countervailing voice to narrowing trends in HE. Keep well and thank you - thank God! - for your considerate energy! 
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