Welcome to this special issue of the Journal of Academic Language and Learning consisting of 17 refereed papers from the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the Association for Academic Language and Learning held at the University of Wollongong on the 25–27 November, 2015. The conference theme was ‘Critical Intersections’ and was proposed as a deliberate incitement to explore knowledge and practice across traditional boundaries to consider how ALL educators continue to make an important intellectual contribution to the sector in the current environment where universities are compelled to do more with less and the restructuring of ALL work appears to be a continuous process.
In developing this theme, we were interested in exploring not just the concepts that currently dominate thinking about higher education, but to critically examine their inter-relationships and to consider what kinds of new spaces for conceptual and empirical work might emerge out of this kind of examination. Among our three excellent keynote speakers, including Associate Professor Cath Ellis from UNSW and Dr Kate Bowles from UOW, we were fortunate to have attracted Emeritus Professor Ronald Barnett from University College London, whose paper ‘Glimpsing the ecological university’ (Barnett, 2011) inspired the theme of this conference. Although the focus of our thinking may not be so broad as to think about the purpose of the university itself, Professor Barnett’s work provides the kinds of questions, analyses, metaphors and concepts that form a very useful toolbox for thinking about the facts, values and future of our work as a profession.