The unbundling of universities?

The unbundling of universities?

The MOOC hype has led to a lot of discussions about the future of higher education. At the EADTU-conference last week the focus was on higher education institutions in Europe. Both Yves Punie and Frank de Langen talked about the unbundling of higher education institutions in their presentations. Unbundling means that different institutions do different tasks, you can get your courses at one institution, the accreditation by a second institution, while research is done at a third institution.

Yves Punie, from the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) presented results from a work they’ve done on Foresight 2030. They see MOOC as a force that will accelerate other kinds of disruptions that we do yet know. Punie said that we are seeing a global shift towards openess, that means that there will be more education available for all, but it will not be for free. With open education sweeping the world, it opens up a marked for accrediation of students competence, like the American Excelsior College.

Frank de Langen from the Open university of Nederland further talked of unbundling in light of business models for higher education institutions. He said that offering both research and studies are two distinct business models, and that it is unnecessary complex to offer both. He predicts that the institutions who quits research and specializes in offering studies will be the winner in the near future and sweep the traditional universities out of the marked.

Both Punie and de Langen are seeing open university as the disruptive force – not MOOC, and they see MOOC as a force that will make open education more important. That is one trend to follow. The question about unbundling or not can be viewed in that perspective, but there is also another question regarding unbundling. Higher education have spent some time and effort making their studies more research-based, and I’m not sure if you would get inititiatives like Open Science Laboratory if you unbundle research and studies. There are some innovation you can only get if the same people are doing both the research and the teaching.

So what will the future look like in Europe? I think a lot more open online studies, that you have to pay for, yes, I also think there will be unbundling, but I do not think that the institutions with two business models, both research and teaching will die completely.

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