Platform academic labour? New divisions and vulnerabilities in online higher education

A webinar by Dr Mariya Ivancheva (University of Liverpool)

Please register for this webinar HERE in advance.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


Over the last decade the literatures on digital higher education and platform work have expanded, albeit rarely in conversation. This paper aims to bridge this gap. Building on my fieldworks on academic labour and care (Ivancheva et al 2019) and on ‘unbundled’ higher education in South Africa and the UK (Ivancheva et al f.c.) I discuss how academic labour has been reorganised through the entry of online platforms into the higher education market worldwide. Online Program Management (OPM) platform providers partner with selected universities based on their global ranking, and reinforce (instead of rehabilitating, as they promise) old class and racial divisions in and between the Global North and South. In the paper, I discuss how this dynamic is reflected in the everyday practices of university workers. Expanding their offer from overcrowded campuses to emergent markets of off-campus students, ‘elite’ universities and their OMP partners rely not only on contingent, but also on outsourced, fragmented and piecemeal online academic labour. The latter is performed predominantly by women and academics in the Global South in need of flexible employment and/or extra income. Thus, increasingly expensive online programs targeting professional middle classes in the Global South rely on a cheap and precarious academic reserve army who offers not only education but also pastoral care for a complex and alienated online student population. Through this empirical study, I revisit works on platform labour and digital education, in attempt to theorise these complex new divisions and vulnerabilities in the academic profession. 

About the speaker

Mariya Ivancheva is a Lecturer in Higher Education Studies at the University of Liverpool. Her academic and research-driven advocacy work focus on the casualisation and  digitalisation of academic labour, the re/production of intersectional inequalities at universities and labour markets, and the role of academic communities in broader processes of social change.