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Tech barons on campus

Big data has the potential to transform business models in higher education, so why are universities holding back?

On 6 May, The Economist declared that ”the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data". In technology circles, this is already a cliché. It is also true. Facebook, Amazon and Google have all built their empires on humongous heaps of data—our data. Their power is so great that competition law experts are now calling for new antitrust laws to break down digital monopolies.

If the decks of the knowledge economy are stacked for data-hungry platforms, it is peculiar that universities, which generate much of that knowledge, are shying away from this game. In an era in which their own industry is amenable to disruption due to the advent of Massive Open Online Course platforms—higher education’s Facebook and Amazon combined—many universities still treat the economic value of data as a necessary evil: often discussed, rarely used.

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