This article considers the role of experiments in learning in movements
to democratise higher education ‘under the rule of capital’
(Gutierrez, Navarro and Linsalata 2017). It focuses on the emergence
of a new generation of ‘free universities’ in the United Kingdom,
situating these in a historical tradition of educational experimentation
and a current context of global movements for autonomy from
the state, capital and dominating epistemologies. It argues that free
universities can contribute to transforming the relationship between
knowledge, university and society, but that these contributions are
often invisible within the logic of the dominant institutional systems.
Conceptualising the projects as struggles for autonomy renders these
contributions visible and valuable for educational reformers working
both within and independently of the university.