The Evolution of Virtual Universities

The Evolution of Virtual Universities

Marion Cottingham (University of Western Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-100-3.ch113
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For centuries universities have worked as individual entities in isolation, and students have attended classes their respective campuses. In the 70s Open University started its operation as the first virtual university. It was not until the late 80s and 90s that some traditional universities started having affiliations with offshore facilities for students to study the first year of their degrees in their home countries before moving overseas to complete the rest of their degrees. This globalisation was the beginning of knowledge commercialisation as universities set up arrangements with rapidly emerging offshore institutions that were eager to jump onto this profitable bandwagon. Eventually competition drove some universities to extend the time spent in the students’ home countries to a second year, which sent students flocking to their door away from nonconforming universities. The lower overseas student numbers at these universities forced them to discontinue their affiliations, as they were no longer viable. Online distance education and later the Internet opened new challenges as students could enroll directly with the university of their choice and do their whole degree from home. This also gives the less wealthy students an opportunity to study at the world’s top universities most of which have no entry requirements. Lots of universities around the world have joined to form consortiums to handle this rapid change in global education commercialisation.

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