How to Start A Free University

Since the MFU’s inception, we have been getting lots of feedback and requests to start free universities elsewhere in Australia and overseas. To allow more people to share in our endeavour we podcast most of our lectures, but want to do more. We want to support other communities to set up their own free universities.

We have written a simple manual on how to start your own free university, which takes people through our philosophy (why we started the MFU, and the free uni philosophy more broadly) and provides a simple and accessible guide on how to start a free uni in your own community. Because every community is different, this is not a step-by-step instruction manual, but rather an exploration of the issues people will need to consider and the questions they’ll need to ask themselves when setting up their own free uni. Topics covered range from defining your aims, objectives and expectations, to building an audience base, finding venues, designing courses, finding lecturers, and media, marketing and outreach. We share our experiences – the things we’ve found hard, the things we’ve found useful, solutions we’ve discovered, and so on. We also share the thoughts of others involved in the MFU as participants, speakers, supporters and course coordinators.

This manual is freely available to everyone: You can either download it here, or you can contact us and request a hardcopy to be sent to you. We would like to be able to post the hardcopies we printed out to community groups, community libraries, neighbourhood houses and other groups who are interested in starting a free university. If you are able, please send us a self addressed and stamped envelope and we’ll post a manual out to you, but if you’re not able to do this, please contact us and we’ll post one out to you anyway. Send us an email at if you'd like to get a copy.

Reflections on running a course at MFU

Professor Stephen Knight has run a number of courses at the MFU over the years, including The Politics of Myth and Classics of Crime Fiction. After running the course on crime fiction, Stephen wrote an essay reflecting on the process and experience of running a free uni course, which may be of interest to anyone interested in starting a free uni, or interested in running a course at our Melbourne Free Uni. 

You can read his account here: Crime Fiction at MFU: Reflections by Stephen Knight