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The NRF and ESRC collaborate to fund research on the role of technology in the future of higher education

How can universities level the field for students who come from highly diverse economic and social backgrounds, and who have different levels of experience in using technology?

The Unbundled University: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape will look at the “unbundling” of higher education and ask if the traditional university – offering a single package for many aspects of the student experience including teaching, content and assessment – is still relevant.

The success of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has shown that there is increasing interest in more flexible models of higher education, especially those evolving into accredited courses.

As digital technology continues to influence and “disrupt” how students learn and are taught, the research by the Universities of Leeds and Cape Town (UCT) will examine its effect on staff, students and employers.

Associate Professor Laura Czerniewicz, joint principal investigator and Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at UCT, said: “While there are clearly opportunities offered by new models of provision, there are concerns that ‘unbundled’ higher education can lead to fragmentation of the curriculum, increase inequalities amongst the student body, create a disconnect with the holistic benefits offered by a university experience, and create concerns about quality if a wide range of providers are involved.

“We want to look at these risks and at whose interests this unbundling is serving. Outputs from the project will be shared with higher education decision makers and Government policy makers to help them to make informed decisions about future initiatives in this area.

“The universities of Leeds and Cape Town are similar types of institutions addressing similar issues in different contexts in ways that can only enrich the study.”

The research is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It’s one of five collaborative research projects about higher education in South Africa and will take place over 26 months.

For more information, visit The Unbundled University project site.

This article is a shortened version of a press release published by the University of Leeds.


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