A cooperatively owned university
Professor Ariana Levinson is sharing Dean Crawford's blog for the week of May 21, 2018. She is blogging from a research trip to Mondragon, Spain.
See her previous posts:
In addition to worker-owned cooperatives, some of the Mondragon Company cooperatives are multi-stakeholder. A multi-stakeholder cooperative is one where different classes of members jointly own the company; for instance, workers and consumers. Around 1971, Spanish law was amended to permit incorporation of multi-stakeholder cooperatives. In the US, some states have cooperative laws, like the Uniform Limited Cooperative Association Act, that permit incorporation as a multi-stakeholder cooperative, and in any state a multi-stakeholder co-op can be incorporated via an LLC.
Yesterday, we learned about the governance structure of the Mondragon co-ops and how the interrelations between the co-ops in the network are structured. We visited the museum honoring Father Arizmendiarrieta, the inspiration for and leader of the group that founded the first Mondragon cooperative in 1956, and we visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which a Mondragon construction co-op was involved in building.
One of the Mondragon co-ops is a university, the University of Mondragon. The university is a second-level co-op, within which are three cooperatives: the Engineering School, the Business and Administration School and the Pedagogy and Humanities School, and a foundation, the Basque Culinary Center. The co-ops share revenues to enable a co-op to lose money when it is started. Each co-op is run by three classes of members. First, of course, the workers, such as professors and administrative staff, are member owners. Second, the consumers, the students, are member owners. Finally, collaborators, such as Mondragon co-ops, other private businesses and the city of Mondragon are owners. Each class elects four representatives to the General Council, which is equivalent to a Board of Directors.
For the engineers, Mondragon University offers an elective in cooperativism. But all the learning at the university is done through team project learning, and many students intern in Mondragon cooperatives. In these ways, students learn cooperativism thought practice. 15 percent of the funding for Mondragon comes from the Spanish government. 33 percent is funded by student tuition, and the rest by collaborators and revenue generating university projects. The annual cost to a student to join the co-op and attend the university is between 5,000 to 8,000 euros (about $5,900 to about $9,400), depending on which discipline. The cost to attend a public university in the Basque region is approximately 1,200 euros (about $1,400). The cost to attend the University of Louisville is $11,086.
On Monday, I will meet with the three law professors who teach in the Business School, and hope to have more to blog about the university then.