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This Digital University (DU) Network event presents findings from the Universities and Unicorns (UU) project (click here to view). The project introduces fundamentally new ways to think about and examine the digitalising of the higher education sector. It investigates new forms of value creation and suggests that value in the sector increasingly lies in the creation of digital assets. Further, the project examines whether and how universities, companies and investors shift from forms of entrepreneurship to forms of rentiership. This has important consequences. Assetisation and rentiership imply a change from creating value via market exchange to capturing value via the ownership and control of assets, such as personal data.

This session will:

  • Introduce a new paradigm to study the higher education industry and its digitalisation, which introduces a focus on the assetization of higher education services
  • Present tensions and synergies in understanding the value of EdTech between universities, EdTech companies and investors in EdTech
  • Propose guidelines for key higher education stakeholders in how they relate to and govern EdTech

The panel will be of interest to academics, practitioners and policymakers, who are interested in higher education and EdTech.




10:00 – 10:05

Welcome & introductions

10:05 – 10:20

Janja Komljenovic: Project’s overall findings and investors in EdTech

10:20 – 10:35

Sam Sellar: University case studies findings

10:35 – 10:55

Morten Hansen: Companies case studies findings

10:55 – 11:10

Ben Williamson: Discussant

11:10 – 11:30

Discussion and questions


Speaker biographies

Janja Komljenovic is a Senior Lecturer and co-Director of the Higher Education Research and Evaluation at Lancaster University in the UK. She is also a Research Management Committee member of the Global Centre for Higher Education with headquarters at the University of Oxford. Janja’s research focuses on the political economy of knowledge production and higher education markets. She is especially interested in the relationship between the digital economy and the higher education sector; and in digitalisation, datafication and platformisation of knowledge production and dissemination. Janja is published internationally on higher education policy, markets and education technology.

Sam Sellar is Dean of Research (Education Futures) and Professor of Education Policy at the University of South Australia. Sam’s research focuses on education policy, large-scale assessments and the datafication of education. Sam also works closely with teacher organisations around the world to understand the impact of digitalisation on teacher professional autonomy. Sam is the Lead Editor of Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education and his most recent book is titled Algorithms of education: How datafication and artificial intelligence shape policy (University of Minnesota Press), co-authored with Kalervo N. Gulson and P. Taylor Webb.

Morten Hansen was a Research Associate on the Universities and Unicorns project, and is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Morten specialises in education markets and has previously worked as a researcher at the Saïd Business School in Oxford.

Ben Williamson is a Chancellor's Fellow at the Centre for Research in Digital Education and the Edinburgh Futures Institute, examining the ways educational futures are made and contested at the intersections of digital technologies, science, finance and data with policy and governance. His current research focuses on educational futures-making across a number of domains of socio-digital and data-intensive practice. Ben is an editor of the journal Learning, Media and Technology and maintains the research blog Code Acts in Education. He is the author of Big Data in Education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice (Sage, 2017).

A recording of this session can be accessed by clicking herePasscode: O4*D+e23

September 21st, 2023 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Online event - link will be provided
Resource 1 Janja_Komljenovic.pdf
Resource 2 Sam_Sellar.pdf
Resource 3 Morten_Hansen.pdf
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