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How academics in South Africa and England perceive changing models of teaching and learning – at the intersection of unbundling, marketisation and digitisation in HE

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 4:45pm – 5:15pm parallel session



Room 2 – 303-G14, Sem



Professor Laura Czerniewicz
University of Cape Town, South Africa

Dr Rada Mogliacci
University of Cape Town, South Africa



The process of unbundling and marketisation has received attention in both practice and scholarship in recent years (Czerniewicz, 2018; Komljenovic and Robertson, 2016). This paper presents the findings from a study that explores how unbundling processes, intersected with digitization, are changing the nature of teaching and learning in higher education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa and England. Unbundling refers to the process of disaggregating higher education provision into component parts often to be delivered in partnerships with private providers. Although there have been studies about academics’ critique of unbundling processes (e.g. Macfarlane, 2010), marketisation in HEIs (e.g. Collyer, 2015) and digitization of teaching and learning (e.g. Drumm, 2018; Hall, 2016), to our knowledge there has not been a study that discusses the  convergence that brings about new forms of teaching and learning and new models of provision. This intersection of unbundling, marketisation and digitization as perceived by academics is the focus of this paper; research based on data collected from 14 focus group interviews from various disciplines from 8 universities in South Africa and England. The focus group analysis showed that academics’ concerns can be grouped into three distinct categories: Concerns about decision making and agency – academics’ resistance towards technology as resistance to top-down decision-making processes and automation of their work; The nature of emergent forms of teaching – reinforcing the ‘pedagogy over technology’ cry; and Ongoing and mutating forms of digital inequalities – the effect these processes have on social justice and transformation. We show how lack of negotiation space for all stakeholders challenges academics’ ability to translate these trends into meaningful academics practice. The paper concludes with a discussion about the implications of the findings for both policy makers and educators in the light of current global HEIs developments.

Our work is situated at the intersection of several sub-themes of the conference. The current paper is part of a larger project where we explore how technology, governance and management are changing teaching and learning in higher education in South Africa and England. We base our work on publicly available information as well as interview data that was collected from government policy-makers, university leaders, academics, students and representatives of private companies that partner with universities in providing online programme management services. At the conference, we will present the findings regarding how academics perceive the aforementioned changes in higher education in relation to their every-day teaching practice and how, from their point of view, it transforms university education.



Collyer, F.M. 2015. Practices of conformity and resistance in the marketisation of the academy: Bourdieu, professionalism and academic capitalism. Critical Studies in Education. 56(3):315–331.
Czerniewicz, L. 2018. Unbundling and Rebundling Higher Education in an Age of Inequality. Educause. [Online], Available: [2019, February 28].
Drumm, L. 2019. Folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories: how lecturers rationalise their digital teaching. Research in Learning Technology. 27(0).
Hall, R. 2016. Technology-enhanced learning and co-operative practice against the neoliberal university. Interactive Learning Environments. 24(5):1004–1015.
Komljenovic, J. & Robertson, S.L. 2016. The dynamics of ‘market-making’ in higher education. Journal of Education Policy. 31(5):622–636.
Macfarlane, B. 2011. The Morphing of Academic Practice: Unbundling and the Rise of the Para-academic. Higher Education Quarterly. 65(1):59–73.


Presentation topic

Academics – Changing Academic Practice

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