Campus or platform – What shape will the post-COVID university take? (By


Online learning is fragmenting the traditional model of the university as a single site for both education and research. Jon Treadway and Daniel W Hook, discuss how this digital transition is reshaping universities and how altmetrics might enable higher education institutions to redefine themselves in an increasingly aspatial academic environment.

2020 was a tough year for higher education, particularly for ‘destination countries’ – that is, those that rely on a high volume of international students such as the US, UK and Australia. In the short-term, these historic, respected and established educational nexuses have become essentially unreachable to the foreign students on which they have come to rely. In the long-term, a shift in the geopolitical climate is seeing moves toward home tuition of students – a move that may reduce the level of international research collaboration in coming decades.

It is not a surprise that the business-model diversification that led universities to become dependent on overseas students as a revenue stream has been encouraged by free-market-oriented governments in these countries. It is equally unsurprising that free-market thinking comes with increased risk – after all, even diversified companies fail. The UK regulator has made it clear that the price of university “autonomy” is that there will be no bailouts – a strong message that universities in the UK may indeed be allowed to fail, which has been echoed in the US and Australia.

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