The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape – ESRC/NRF funded project

Profs Neil Morris and Laura Czerniewicz from the universities of Leeds and Cape Town, respectively, are the Principal Investigators on the project ‘The Unbundled University: Researching Emerging Models in an Unequal Landscape’, from October 2016 to March 2019. Also on the team are Bronwen Swinnerton from the University of Leeds and Alan Cliff, Sukaina Walji and  Rada Mogliacci from the University of Cape Town. Rebecca Swartz from the University of Cape Town and Mariya Ivancheva from the University of Leeds were post-doctoral researchers on the project. This project examines the profound confluence which constitutes the unbundled university – the intersection of increasingly disaggregated curricula and services, the affordances of digital technologies, the growing marketisation of the higher education sector itself and the deep inequalities which characterise both the sector and the contexts in which they are located.

Each of these aspects contributes to the complex ways in which the nature of Higher Education is itself evolving. For example, the past few years have seen the appearance of many flexible online courses and qualifications, delivered in new configurations of providers and partnerships, including by parties new to the sector. Whilst these changes may offer opportunities for increased numbers of learners to access education and thus contribute to economic prosperity, there is very little empirical research about the nature, process and impact of unbundling and rebundling, as it is playing out in the rapidly reconfiguring sphere. This project is exploring how these formulations are coming into being, how opportunities are being exploited and whose interests are being served.