The unbundled university : researching emerging models in an unequal landscape

Swinnerton, Bronwen and Coop, Taryn and Ivancheva, Mariya and Czerniewicz, Laura and Morris, Neil P. and Swartz, Rebecca and Walji, Sukaina and Cliff, Alan; Dohn, Nina Bonderup and Jandrić, Peter and Ryberg, Thomas and de Laat, Maarten, eds. (2020) The unbundled university : researching emerging models in an unequal landscape. In: Mobility, Data and Learner Agency in Networked Learning. Research in Networked Learning . Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 19-34. ISBN 9783030369118 (

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As higher education (HE) undergoes a massive expansion in demand in most countries across the globe and experiences financial pressures, the sector is evolving rapidly. Market pressures encourage the search for additional income and new forms of provision, and online programme management (OPM) companies are increasingly entering the sector as they identify market opportunities. At the same time, the HE sector has seen the appearance of many flexible online courses and qualifications delivered by new configurations of providers and partnerships, through a process of 'unbundling'. This chapter reports on the data on South African HE from the research project 'The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape'. Using a new dataset, mapping or social cartography is employed to bring a novel perspective to uncover patterns of new provision and the partnerships between OPMs and institutions and their relationship to differentiation in the HE sector. Significantly, the maps reveal relationships between universities and OPMs which appear to reflect existing differentiation between institutions, insofar as OPMs presently partner almost exclusively with historically advantaged, traditional universities, with high international ranking and reputation. This chapter argues that such partnerships have the potential to reinforce the power asymmetries already at play.