Following on from our business models discussion, Tony has a really interesting post on some back of a beermat calculations on what you would need to generate from ads to match current revenue for courses. It assumes there is no other income, ie students don't pay fees, no Government subsidy, no additional services, etc. It's a bit hard to follow, so here are a few headlines.
- Current course revenue: 800,000 GBP
- Each 'page' needs to generate 4 GBP
- To make the money back on click through advertising each course page would need 1million impressions per year.
- For an affiliate model we would need every student to click through once on every page over all presentations of the course.
Now, of course, there are loads of assumptions and simplifications in Tony's model, check his original post to see these. But what it does show is that current revenue streams would not really be sustainable on a pure advertising basis, at least as we do it currently.
Now I don't think we ever thought they would be, but it's good to get some figures against it. So, let's pretend Governments stopped funding Higher Education tomorrow, how would we fund it?
Here's some thoughts:
- It would be a hybrid model
- There would be 'education classic' – ie you get the same as you do now but parents/employers pay for all of it
- There would be disaggregation of the services – you pay for some content, so
It would likely feature some selling of additional services (assessment, support, etc)
- Ironically it might make the need for free content stronger – because you need to assemble courses quickly
But most of all it would mean we don't do education like we do now. This is the big (and necessary for his purposes) assumption in Tony's post – that new forms of return need to equal current ones. If Government funding disappeared then so would many academic jobs and functions. Education would become much leaner, so who knows, maybe the ad model could fund this new stripped back model. The question then would be who would want to work in such a system?
I have visions of an 'academic call centre' with bearded profs answering phones to queries on Heisenberg while an aggressive 18 year old manager prowls the floor, barking out admonishments:
"Russell, stop smoking that pipe!"
"Dawkins, you've been on that call for two minutes, if they haven't got evolution by now, hang up."
"Everybody – three minute journal break, then back at your desks."
If we didn't know it already, Tony's post highlights that education doesn't come cheap, particularly the sort of education system educators would want to work in.