eLearning and the crisis of mission in British universities

Williams, Peter, 1948 December 2-

October 2007

Thesis or dissertation

© 2007 Peter John Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century Higher Education in Britain faces an uncertain future, in what, as will be discussed, some commentators have referred to as a ‘crisis of mission’. The period of relative homogeneity and state-funded protection of the previous century is over, and universities now find themselves exposed to hostile external forces. The sector may be approaching a major point of fracture. Elite, research-led universities are positioning themselves in lucrative niche markets and can command high tuition fees; they are pulling away from the more vulnerable, teaching-led regional institutions left to survive in the mass market. Moreover, rapid developments in the educational use of information and communications technology (ICT) – known loosely as eLearning – have the potential to transform pedagogical practice, and are making this market an increasingly
globalised one.

This thesis examines the complex of factors which threaten the traditional mission of the University and which have already begun to reshape its ways of working. It views the British university in an historical context, charting the changes from universities as successively: associations of scholars, teaching monasteries, agents of the state, and corporations driven by financial imperatives. It examines the nature of eLearning, linking this to the explosive growth in the popular use of ICT and to wider epistemological and social changes. Scenario projections of the future are compared, leading to the synthesis, from a wide range of causal factors and viewpoints, of a comprehensive and longitudinal projection of the ways in which Higher Education is likely to develop over the next three decades.

Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
Bottery, Mike
Qualification level
Qualification name
QR Code