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A number of changes, including increasing numbers studying, implementation of private provision, students paying their own way, new regions driving global competition, and internationalisation are impacting the way that HE works:

Private institutions, such as the 308,000-student University of Phoenix’s online campus, are taking a lead in creating “hybrid” models, which offer degree programmes through both online platforms and traditional campuses, while prestigious institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among those introducing massive open online courses in an effort to provide free, quality education to the masses (although most Moocs do not carry academic credit).

Having been involved in efforts to launch the nationally funded – and failed – UK eUniversity in 2000, Fielden is sceptical about the role of distance learning. Those working on the project “found then, as The Open University found, that you have to have some face-to-face contact”. The hybrid model “has more potential but it can be more expensive and difficult” to implement, he cautions.

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