During a couple of days as Singapore’s lone classical liberal last week, I took a particular interest in education advertising. A major theme is rankings, with results of student surveys used where the conventional prestige measures are unavailable.
On advertisement in the Straits Times particularly caught my eye. It advertised Monash University degrees, noting that Monash is ranked 47th in the Times Higher Education Supplement and is a member of the ‘prestigious Group of Eight universities’.
But the courses advertised aren’t taught by Monash. People wanting to find out more had to go to the website of Kaplan Singapore, part of the big US for-profit Kaplan University.
And where does Kaplan rank? It’s not 47th in the THES. It’s not in the Group of Eight. It isn’t in the major rankings at all.
Though this raises yet more questions about the consumer information value of rankings in teaching markets, this teaching outsourcing could be a positive development overall.
There is a potential conflict of interest in the same institution both teaching and assessing, since there is an incentive to soft mark to ensure that students continue. I’m not sure how Monash’s deal with Kaplan works, but it is possible that this conflict is minimised by outsourcing teaching (or Kaplan outscourcing assessment, depending on how you look at it).
Disaggregation of the industry may also bring the benefits of specialisation, with different institutions building skills and reputation in course development, teaching and assessment.