‘Beware the Instant Global-Campus Movement’

Phil Hill, writing in the Chronicle on the recent University of Arizona acquisition of the for-profit Ashford:

Both Arizona and Purdue, with one move, have outwardly leapfrogged their competition and became major players in the online world with a much more diverse set of learners — working adults from underserved demographic groups. So it’s not hard to see why other universities are looking to follow their leads. When Purdue University Global was being approved by accreditors in 2018, there were already a dozen other nonprofit colleges exploring potential acquisitions of existing for-profit online universities. This appears to be an emerging, problematic trend. Call it the Instant Global Campus movement.

Hill’s main beef with the movement is that these insta-campuses are isolated from their co-branded brick-and-mortar universities. Fair enough. But the real problem is the stealth privatization of the public land-grant university:

Under the Purdue and Arizona arrangements, the parent for-profit companies, Kaplan Higher Education and Zovio, transition immediately from the perilous for-profit sector, with its shrinking enrollments and reputational baggage, into the lucrative and growing online-program-management market. The companies not only gain Purdue and Arizona as clients, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenue, but also get a springboard to serve many other colleges with these services.

Coming Soon: Communications of the AMS, a New Diamond Journal

An interesting tidbit, buried in a Scholarly Kitchen post on the implications of COVID for professional associations:

At the [American Mathetical Society], our approach is to look to Diamond OA for a new broad-based math journal, Communications of the AMS, launching in 2021 and funded by an AMS donor, but we realize that this is not an option open to all society publishers.

‘Without stronger academic governance, Covid-19 will concentrate the corporate control of academic publishing’

This April piece by COPIM‘s Samuel Moore has aged pretty well:

If things were tough already for small, not-for-profit, and university press publishers, they are going to get worse during the downturn. Higher education is predicted to be badly hit by the crisis and this will have a knock-on effect on purchasing decisions, university press subsidies and overall budget availability.


[University of Michigan Press director Charles Watkinson] is absolutely correct that larger commercial publishers – the oligopoly – will be well positioned to take advantage of new economic conditions and will probably even further consolidate their market power. In controlling the majority of academic journals, these companies will be able to price journal packages in a way that makes them attractive to cash-strapped institutions, giving them a competitive advantage over the smaller publishers, not-for-profits, monograph publishers, and so on. Where open access is concerned, this will mean banging to the beat of the oligopoly’s drum, likely through increased transformative agreements, APC publishing and infrastructures that track researchers and monetise their data.

It is also worth remembering that open access is now key to the business strategies of large commercial publishers who have figured out how to monetise subscription content, open access content and data analytics.


So, Covid-19 does not ‘kill’ the for-profit business model [and] in fact might strengthen profiteering through the ability of the publishing oligopoly to weather the financial downturn and dictate the future of open access according to their conditions. While this might increase the amount of open access research available, it will be at the expense of the loss of control by the research community and the continued dominance of a handful of players. Such is the problem of a move to open access that is not emancipatory from capital, or at least antagonistic towards it.

‘Reassembling Scholarly Communications’

Jonathan Gray, announcing his new collection, co-edited with Martin Eve:

MIT Press have recently published a new book on Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access edited by Martin Eve and myself. […] My chapter, “Infrastructural Experiments and the Politics of Open Access” examines how scholarly communication infrastructures may be taken as both an object of research and a site of experimentation to explore questions of who has access, what counts, what matters, and how relations are organised.

I can’t wait to dig into the whole book, which is (of course) available OA.

SPARC Copyright Policy Report

From the press release on the just-released SPARC Europe report copyright and licensing policy [pdf]:

Clear from this study: the majority of publishers have yet to embark on a more OA friendly policy journey, though some are making preparations. “If these publishers choose to continue on their current course, their authors will continue to find complying with OA policy requirements problematic — unless funders change their grant conditions and/or institutions/authors retain their rights,” wrote the authors.

The whole report is worth reading, but of special interest are the recommendations, which lay out best practices for foot-dragging publishers (and other stakeholders). Still, SPARC Europe’s fixation on CC BY—part of a wider CC BY fetishism in segments of the OA world—is frustrating. There are good reasons to encourage non-commercial OA licenses like CC BY-NC: to block commercial exploitation and to encourage a nonprofit scholarly communication ecosystem.

Jeff Pooley is professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College and director of mediastudies.press, an open access scholarly publisher.

pooley@muhlenberg.edu | press@mediastudies.press

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