One significant, tangible and interesting challenge for the privatised university is its impedance of particular forms of effective engagement and action in teaching and research, notably with respect to inequities in the broader social context, and the position of the university within that context. In the face of significant resource constraints (themselves the outcome of complex political and
economic dynamics) intersecting organisational imperatives toward competition, administrative accountability, unilateral managerial style and ‘best foot forward’ promotional culture combine to produce a particular lack in socio-political epistemology, referred to here as bad faith ‘not-knowing’, or ignorance. A central paradox is that, although the university is evidently devoted to knowledge production and dissemination, and the various issues the sector faces in Australia are well documented (notably: casualisation, ever diminishing research funding, and the implications of the massification of teaching), nonetheless, the general tendency is towards acquiescence and intensification rather than contestation of the processes that give rise to these issues. This not-knowing arises at the intersection of the dissonant and incompatible voices that frame the institution as a workplace: the top-down managerial line and its commitment to control through ‘cost neutrality’, the outward-facing advertorial rhetoric of excellence, and the routine snark of the embattled workforce attempting to harmonise these discrepant formulations of the organisation. It is argued that this empty space of not-knowing is recognisable to people occupying roles in other organisations, and that it represents therefore a peculiar opportunity for those interested
in the future of universities as public institutions: there is more to find out about how these organisationally produced epistemic limits are recognisable and consequential across contexts, how they are imposed, and how they contain potential.