Several pundits and think tanks, including the credit rating agency Moody’s and Pearson, argue that MOOCs pose a threat to smaller higher education institutions, as the online revolution favours elite institutions over the rest. Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun claims – perhaps hopefully in his case? – that by 2060 there will be 10 universities left in the world. A more plausible approach is to suggest that MOOCs create opportunities for smaller institutions because of their potential to increase international visibility and create new streams of revenue.
Top-ranking institutions appear to be in an advantageous position when it comes to online provision. The vast majority of students cannot access these institutions because of a selection process that admits only the brightest and the richest. MOOCs may gradually diminish the fee obstacle, thus depriving smaller universities of a big chunk of students. This makes more sense if you consider the power of the brand, which is important on the internet, particularly for students from the developing world, and you have a market that may come closer to an oligopoly.