A few costs of uf online later, the Florida Board of Governors granted the University of Florida that designation. Regardless of the jokes about the sluggish pace of change in higher education, Florida now faces a looming challenge: Can you create a degree-granting online institution in seven months?
After sponsoring or forcing the adoption of online programs over the course of and , college presidents now admit that at least the MOOC version won't fix budgetary or educational issues.
At the Berkeley Online Summit I attended earlier this month, the chancellor of UC Berkeley and the president of Stanford described online as a supplement to hands-on instructor involvement and as good for specific student populations.
Elsewhere, UC President Janet Napolitano chimed in with the same message --if online is done well, "it doesn't save all that much money. There are no savings!
As John Scott reported here last Sunday, the most interesting online practitioners now see its value as controlled by the social practices in which it is embedded. Online continues to function well as a means for private firms to access public funding. At the online summit, I asked Ellen Junn, then SJSU's provost, whether they had identified the budgetary savings expected from online conversions like the Udacity-SJSU partnership of the kind she continues to advocate.
In that case, she replied, we didn't know.
All of the costs were paid by Udacity. Nobody batted an eye at this stunning admission. To me it meant that for at least some of these major deals university officials didn't actually run the numbers on the cost savings to verify net savings of the kind assumed by policy heavyweights like Gov.
Jerry Brown --the online providers ran the pilot service like a K-Mart blue light special, selling it for nearly free. I found no MOOC cost savings.
I assumed that more financial data would appear and more reports would analyze them. Perhaps they would be written by certified accountants or by the business consultants that have their noses in every other aspect of university affairs.
No such luck: I haven't been able to find another such analysis, or to get better data myself. The news this week reminded me why.
He was rebuffed. UF Online was much like what Gov. Brown wanted to set up in California. Pearson was hired to, among other things, use its marketing prowess to recruit students who would be willing to pay high tuition to get a UF degree at home.
How much was UF going to pay Pearson to turn a program with many obvious problems into a major success? On March 21, Mr.
Schweers reported, In response to a public records request from The Sun, the university this week released heavily redacted documents that blot out the amount of money UF will pay Pearson over the life of the year contract — saying that information is a trade secret exempt from the public records law.
UF did admit that it had to pay Pearson cash up front: it just wouldn't say how much. A week later, Mr.
The business plan sounds much like the Udacity-Georgia Tech deal. The revenue estimates are worth pondering. Even if Pearson fails, it will effectively pocket all of the state funding that was given to UF for online, and some internal UF money besides.
The University will thus be ready to earn its first net dollar in This is a bad business deal, but that's not its point. The point is for the University of Florida to function not as a university with a need for new revenues but as a pipeline for sending existing revenues somewhere else.
Pearson assumed that UF will conceal these terms from the public, since it had requested and been granted trade secret projection.
In exchange, Pearson seems to provide marketing, "proprietary digital content" and a range of other services that simply duplicate what any university already does "admission and enrollment support," "providing on-demand student suppert," and so on.
Pearson's global brand is supposed to muscle this albatross into the air, but its exchange of non-essential services for guaranteed income qualifies as extraction rather than exchange. Pearson has extensive operations in the UK, and has been involved in the UK's experiment in wholesale higher ed privatization.
This past week its failure was in the news again. The government will continue to need to make additional cuts in its higher ed budget--to maintenance grants for example-- in order to make up the shortfalls in the loan program.
Needless to say, students, academic staff, and a growing number of administrators are furious, and feeling tricked, and as usual uncertain of what to do.
The Guardian also reported that a former Willetts aide who is the new head of the Higher Education Policy Institute now agrees that the "government got its maths wrong. How do governments "get their maths wrong"? How do universities cut deals that due diligence would tell them will cost them money rather than net them new returns?
He presents himself as the man who introduces competition by shaking the industry up with his innovations.
Reality, however, is rather different. For Mr.
Branson doesn't want to end monopolies, but to exploit them. He has made his fortune out of the regulated parts of the economy, which he has milked to extract government subsidies, tax breaks, licensing agreements and protected income streams. Transport works for Branson — trains as well as planes — because it rewards the person who gets the routes.
How do you get the routes? By persuading government officials and industry regulators to give them to you. Pearson, Udacity, Coursera, and other private providers came to public universities touting a similar paradigm: universities are little more than holders of a government-sanction monopoly power--to grant degrees.
The analogy to Virgin's bad train service and many other failed enterprises is strapped university instruction, which at public universities badly needs the scalable upgrade they have no money to build. In all this, university managers get to play the role of earnest regulators who are in over their heads.
They don't want to hurt their industry, but they lack historical leverage; just as important, they lack confidence in their own institutions and its social mission. Runciman again: In the absence of robust trade-union representation, Branson is much freer to strike deals at the top table of government and finance.
He is able to spin his magic without having to worry too much what the people at the bottom think. One of the consequences of the demise of labour power has been that personal contact among the rich and powerful carries more clout.
There are still plenty of regulators, of course, often with increasingly complex and demanding responsibilities.