10 – 11 March 2020
This event was originally due to take place in November 2019 and has been rearranged in solidarity with the UCU strike action taking place at the same time.
Higher education is increasingly ‘platformised’. Indeed, digital platforms have become ubiquitous. They are dominant intermediaries not only in our social, economic and political life, but have become central forms of capitalist accumulation. While platforms differ in terms of openness to developers and public access to data, they operate on similar principles. Some have grown to the extent that have become infrastructures in their own right such as Facebook, while others ‘plug-in’ and become parts of the digital infrastructural backbone. The technical and business aspects of platforms are two sides of the same coin – the market-making aspect of platforms is thus driving technological development, and the technical aspect is configuring markets. These processes, as well as their fast growth and complexity, pose methodological challenges including even identifying appropriate units of analysis.
Higher education is increasingly subject to platformization processes. Yet, in the growing scholarship on platforms, there is a lack of focus on universities and their constituents. Especially scarce is work that would critically examine what platforms are in higher education, what they do, and what is the impact on the sector. The inaugural ‘Platform Universities’ conference, organised at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge in December 2019, opened these questions. This year’s conference at the University of Lancaster will take the debate forward.