Professor Ronald Barnett

About Ronald Barnett

Professor Ronald Barnett

Ronald Barnett is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at University College London Institute of Education (where he was both Dean of Professional Development and (subsequently) Pro-Director for Longer Term Strategy). He has recently been elected as the inaugural President of the Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education Society. In his academic work, he has been leading the development of a new sub-field, the philosophy of higher education.  He has characterised his position as that of a social philosophy of the university, at once realist, critical, imaginative, and practical, in which he has been attempting to identify concepts and principles that offer ways of enhancing universities and higher education in an uncertain age.

His (30) books include The Idea of Higher Education (1990), The Limits of Competence (1994), Realizing the University in an age of supercomplexity (2000), and A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty (2007). He has recently completed a trilogy of books on understanding the university: Being a University (2011), Imagining the University (2013) and Understanding the University: Institution, Idea, Possibilities (2016).
His latest book is The Ecological University: A Feasible Utopia (2018), which perhaps stands as the culmination of his life-long enterprise.  Just published (with Soren Bengtsen) is Knowledge and the University: Re-claiming Life (Routledge, 2019) - see under Books for fuller description.

Ronald Barnett’s books have been translated into several languages and several have won prizes, including his very first book. He is also the author of one hundred and fifty papers and well over another one hundred and fifty articles and other pieces of writing.



Professor Ronald Barnett Ronald Barnett is the inaugural recipient of the EAIR Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education Research, Policy and Practice’ and has had an (earned) higher doctorate of the University of London conferred upon him.  He holds Fellowships of the Academy of the Social Sciences, the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Higher Education Academy.
Ronald Barnett has been a visiting professor in China and Australia and is currently a visiting professor at two UK universities (Winchester and Liverpool Hope). He has been a Special Adviser to the UK’s Select Committee Inquiry into Universities and Students and an invited speaker in around 40 countries.
Ronald Barnett has chaired several major committees, including acting as Chair of Governing Council of the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Research Degrees Committee of the University of London (working across all of its colleges and all of its disciplines).

Ronald Barnett also acts as a consultant and has worked with most of the major national bodies in UK higher education, and many universities including several in other countries. He is currently working in different ways with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and Liverpool Hope University.