This paper draws a distinction between ways thinking and acting, and hence of policy and practice in higher education, in terms of different kinds of economy: economies of exchange and economies of excess. Crucial features of economies of exchange are outlined and their presence in prevailing conceptions of teaching and learning is illustrated. These are contrasted with other possible forms of practice, which in turn bring to light the nature of an economy of excess. In more philosophical terms, and to expand on the picture, economies of excess are elaborated with reference, first, to the understanding of alterity in the work of Emmanuel Levinas and, second, to the idea of Dionysian intensity that is to be found in Nietzsche. In the light of critical comment on some current directions in policy and practice, the implications of these ways of thinking for the administrator, the teacher and the student in higher education are explored
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