What is unbundling in higher education and why is it happening?
I’m starting the unbundling the university course on Future Learn. This course is an example of a MOOC as research dissemination activity as it based on the findings of the: The Unbundled University: Researching Emerging Models in an Unequal Landscape. The research project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (UK) and National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa (SA) and undertaken by the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the University of Leeds in the UK. The course is led by Neil Morris of Leeds and Laura Czerniewicz at the University of Cape Town.
The project is based on a definition of the unbundling of educational provision as: “the process of disaggregating educational provision into its component parts likely for delivery by multiple stakeholders, often using digital approaches and which can result in rebundling”. The is framed by wider issues of neoliberalism and marketisation of higher education and the increasing use and specific affordances of digital education in higher education.
Framing HE in terms of both a private and a public good related to the marketisation of higher education incorporating the concepts of privatisation, commercialisation, commodification corporatisation and financialisation. So marketisation is an umbrella term for common concepts present in different HE systems, appearing in different ways and generating varied outcomes. While there has been a clear push to privatisation in the USA, UK and Australia, this is less present elsewhere while all HE systems seem to be subject to processes of massification. As a result fo such massification, various forms of cost sharing between the state and the individual beneficiary have emerged.
Ball and Youdell distinguish between endogenous and exogenous privatisations:
Endogenous privatisation is where the language, concepts and procedures of the commercial sector is brought into the HE sector. For example, students are discussed as customers engaging in transactional relationships with ‘their’ university. This is similar to the New Public Management trend seen in the wider public sector.
Exogenous privatisation is the opening up of HE to private sector participation on a for-profit basis. The for-profit aspect is important here as universities in the UK have mainly been private charities established through Royal Charter but recently new for-profit providers have been recognised as higher education institutions. But this also refers to the emerging ecosystem of private companies working within and in a higher education system – from private accommodation providers as well as marketing and student recruitment and technology companies (see Ben Williamson’s work on policy networks). This network of ecosystems approach incorporates processes of unbundling in universities as activities and services are delivered by third party commercial providers. This is justified on the basis of specialised competence (that is, or should be, out side the core competence of the university) or for financial reasons.
The processes of unbundling often starts with aspects of the student experience such as accommodation, some aspects of pastoral support and technology infrastructures but are now increasingly reaching in to teaching and learning activities – which I understand is the main focus for this course: the research project on which this Course is based has a particular focus on Online Program Management (OPM) providers.
The approach of this course so far makes for an interesting complement to Amy Collier’s seminar from 2014 that I posted on here.
I’ll post more on this course as I progress through the material but so far, I’m finding it interesting and engaging.Tags: digital education, marketisation, OPM, privatisation, unbundling, university