Higher Education Is Being Broken Up and Turned into Many Profitable Parts

By Brenda Gourley Vice-Chancellor; The Open University | The Independent (London, England), October 2, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Higher Education Is Being Broken Up and Turned into Many Profitable Parts


Brenda Gourley Vice-Chancellor; The Open University, The Independent (London, England)


OPEN VIEW

The phenomenal growth in the demand for higher education has turned the activity into big business. What is interesting is how the private sector has approached the business, disaggregating its parts and targeting their services at those that look ripe for profit. In the process, higher education is quietly being unbundled, and the business model being reinvented. Let me give some examples:

There is now a market in remedial and supplemental educational services or counselling. One of the biggest providers in the UK reports a 40 per cent increase in their business in the last two years. Other providers seek to groom students for university study. Some target foreign students and even have contracts with certain universities to do so. Some provide the foundation level of study only, and guarantee in the process access to particular universities.

Providers such as Teaching Company or Recorded Books offer excellent lectures by award-winning academics. Add to this the increasing amount of online lecture content and web resources (such as The Open University OpenLearn site) and you are one step away from the Wikiversity idea.

Then there are organisations such as Blackboard and eCollege which provide systems, software, and platforms for online campuses. Traditional universities are now in the distance education market in a way that was once unlikely or unprofitable.

A whole industry has grown around ranking and rating both institutions and individuals. Ratemyprofessors.com is used by millions of students, giving an insight into lecturers and their institutions.

Then there are broadcasters providing highly targeted products to niche audiences - for example Teachers' TV, which will soon be out to tender and which will attract both public and private sector interest. The BBC provides rich educational resources, some in collaboration with the OU, but by no means all.

Publishers and media companies have leveraged up their textbook market into more focused educational offerings in targeted disciplines.

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Higher Education Is Being Broken Up and Turned into Many Profitable Parts
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