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The Digital: New Wave of Privatisation of Universities

Alternative Conditions for Knowledge - Webinar

Info about event


Friday 24 September 2021,  at 12:00 - 13:00


Online (Zoom)

Time:  11am-12pm British summer time, 12-13h Central European Time



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Zoom details will be sent upon registration one day before the event.



We are delighted to announce the first session of our webinar series, Alternative Conditions for Knowledge Creation: Invitation to an explorative journey that seeks to explore the enabling conditions for envisaging another future. This ambitious endeavour has become more important than ever. It requires a reflection on existing power relations and the conditions of (our own) academic knowledge creation.


We start with a topic that could not be more important: The Digitalisation of Education and the Commodification Underpinning It. Janja Komljenovic will talk about an ongoing research project that  sheds light on the role of digital data that we produce daily through our own activities and how they matter to EdTech companies. Tore Hoel will then explore the role of private data protection for online learning and will discuss ways of reframing this protection with pedagogical goals in mind. We are confident that we are going to have a very lively discussion.

Abstract: The Issues as Stake: The global power of Edtech

Janja Komljenovic, University of Lancaster


The education sector is fast digitalising all of its operations. A large part is driven by proprietary digital products and services running on digital platforms developed and offered by for-profit companies that form the education technology (Edtech) industry. Using a theoretical lens of rentiership and assetisation, Janja will discuss intermediary functions and business models of various Edtech platforms. She will specifically focus on the control, processing and monetisation of digital personal data. Janja identifies five potential transformations that the education sector is undergoing as a consequence of digital rentiership. The study sheds light on new rentee and potential rentier roles of education institutions, nestedness of digital platforms and their terms of use, a rise of contractual governance within the education sector, re-institutionalising the sector, and tensions between competition and monopoly in digital education markets. This analysis is not exhaustive but rather part of an emerging field of study on digital rentiership in higher education.


Abstract: Promising ways forward: Towards a pedagogical justification for privacy policies

Tore Hoel, Oslo Metropolitan University


For a student, taking part in technology supported learning is not about asset management and digital data value redistribution. The focus is on learning, citizenship, competency building and trying to avoid harm from uncontrollable data-driven practices. Therefore, (student) privacy is not about property control, but maintaining contextual integrity navigating conflicting interest over a vital period of one’s life. This presentation will argue that privacy needs to be understood in a pedagogical context. It outlines key principles that should inform an educational maxim for privacy and data protection in learning analytics and discusses the responsibilities of education to prepare students for a new era of data driven and AI supported practices.


Dr Janja Komljenovic is a lecturer at the University of Lancaster. Her research interests concern higher education policy and governance, the political economy of higher education and the digital economy. She is particularly interested in platform capitalism and phenomena like digitalisation, datafication and platformization of universities.

Dr. Tore Hoel is a researcher affiliated to the Oslo Metropolitan University. He started his career in higher education as a director of communication at Oslo University College and worked since on a number of international and European projects in the field of learning technologies. He had been active in international standards communities in this field for more than a decade.


The series is part of the project European Universities - Critical Futures and a collaboration (and conversation) between Sue Wright of the Centre for Higher Education Futures (Aarhus University) and Eva Hartmann of the research cluster Culture, Politics and Global Justice/ recently rebranded KPP.