Universities and unicorns: the discursive construction of digital higher education by financial investors
16th June, 11am-midday
Dr Janja Komljenovic, Lancaster University
Javier Mármol Queraltó, Lancaster University
Universities worldwide are increasingly digitalising all of their operations, with the current COVID-19 pandemic speeding up otherwise steady developments. A large part is driven by proprietary digital products and services developed and offered by for-profit companies that form the education technology industry. This industry is part of the digital economy more broadly that works in line with financial strategies of turning things into assets instead of entrepreneurial strategies based on commodity production. In this talk, we will present some of the first insights deriving from the project “Universities and Unicorns: building digital assets in the higher education industry” aiming to investigate new forms of value construction in digital higher education via rentiership. More specifically, we will focus on investors in education technology, who are key actors in performing the future of digital higher education. They are crucial not only for funding and consequently materialising particular digital products and services but also for their policy and discursive work. We will present how they discursively construct the future of students, universities, higher education and its role in the global digital economy.
Janja Komljenovic is a Lecturer of Higher Education at Lancaster University. She is a Management Committee member of the Global Centre for Higher Education (CGHE) and a co-Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation (CHERE@LU). Her research focuses on the political economy of higher education and higher education markets. Komljenovic is especially interested in the relation between the digital economy and the higher education sector; and in digitalisation, datafication and platformization of universities. She leads the ESRC-funded research project “Universities and Unicorns: building digital assets in the higher education industry”, which investigates new forms of value construction in digital higher education and employs a theoretical lens of rentiership and assetization. Komljenovic is published internationally on higher education policy, markets and education technology.
Javier Mármol Queraltó is a Doctoral Student in Linguistics, Associate Lecturer and Summer Programmes Academic Coordinator in Lancaster University. He co-convenes the Language, Ideology and Power (LIP) Research Group in the Department of English Language and Linguistics. Javier’s research interests include multimodal new media discourses, Critical Discourse Studies, and English and Spanish Cognitive Linguistics. His research focuses on multimodal political discourse and discourses of migration, adopting a cognitive-linguistic approach to Critical Discourse Studies (CL-CDS) to the examination of online media. He contributes as Research Assistant conducting critical discourse analysis in the ESRC-funded “Universities and Unicorns: building digital assets in the higher education industry”.