[LINK] SMH: 'Online universities fail to make the grade'
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Nov 16 09:35:11 EST 2004
Online universities fail to make the grade
The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: Monday, November 15 2004
By David Rood
Virtual universities have been a catastrophic failure despite early
predictions that web-based learning was a "tsunami that was sweeping
[the] ivy-clad university of the past away", according to a leading
Monash University professor Simon Marginson argues that global
e-learning ventures have not attracted a critical mass of students
because they failed to understand that online degrees do not command
the same status from students, academics and the community as
His research has serious implications for the beleaguered Universitas
21 Global - a consortium of 16 universities including Melbourne
University, University of NSW, University of Queensland and US
publisher Thomson Learning - which has fallen dramatically short of
student and financial forecasts.
With unmet demand for higher education in China alone estimated to
number 45 million students by 2015, international or cross-border
virtual education was seen as the panacea for surging global demand.
But Professor Marginson says that for most students in the
Asia-Pacific region, an online degree is a less attractive
qualification than a face-to-face degree acquired in a foreign
country or the campus of a foreign university in the student's
"The dream that must be abandoned is ... the vision of an
Anglo-American curriculum beaming in Star Trek fashion to every
corner of China, with prestigious professors on the website and the
minimum of interactive servicing," he writes in a report to be
published in next month's Higher Education Quarterly in Britain.
"Higher education is not an entirely standardisable product, a
Starbucks or McDonald's that can be rolled out everywhere just like
"Hyper-optimism" caused online ventures to predict an economic
bonanza from e-learning, Professor Marginson writes, but it is 40 to
50 per cent more expensive per student to run a successful online
teaching program than a face-to-face one.
Professor Marginson is the director of Monash University's Centre for
Research in International Education.
The collapse of online ventures established by internationally
regarded universities should have "sent alarm bells ringing" at other
institutions, Professor Marginson writes.
In 2001 New York University On-line collapsed after attracting just
166 students. The British government-backed UK e-University met a
Among the global providers to fall well below expectations is
Universitas 21 Global, the brainchild of the former Melbourne
University vice-chancellor, Alan Gilbert.
Launched in 1997 at a cost of $7.6 million to Melbourne University,
the venture initially predicted 1000 students by 2003, and 27,000
students by 2005. Melbourne University had expected to earn $40
million annually by 2010.
U21Global has around 400 students enrolled in its MBA program.
Melbourne University vice-principal and U21Global director Ian
Marshman said global education ventures "where brand and reputation
are all important" took time to become successful.
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program, University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Baker Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre, U.N.S.W
Visiting Fellow in Computer Science, Australian National University
More information about the Link