Meritus University is now the third fourth private online university in New Brunswick, joining Lansbridge [update: Lansbridge lost its degree granting status in August 2010] and Yorkville Universities [and the University of Fredericton]. Meritus is owned by the Apollo Group which also owns the University of Phoenix. Locally, the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations, which represents faculty at public institutions, says that ” … students are being shortchanged by private, for-profit universities, such as Meritus”. This is an interesting statement from those who have enjoyed an oligopoly [defn: An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers] on higher education for the past few centuries. I am sure that the paying students will decide in the end which institution offers the best education and related services.
Due to New Brunswick’s legislation that enables the creation of online private universities, we now have three. With their distributed staff this probably doesn’t equate to a lot of jobs but we are beginning to see a bit of a cluster here. Hopefully we’ll see some innovations in teaching and education from these new institutions, and not just a replication of the medieval scholastic model. At Meritus, the focus is on business administration teaching staff who actually have experience in business. Perhaps that’s what faculty at public institutions mean by being “shortchanged”.
I previously wrote about the move toward standardization in higher education and its implications in From Cottage Industry to International Certification.