Making markets through digital platforms: Pearson, edu-business, and the (e)valuation of higher education

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‘Platform capitalism’ and ‘surveillance capitalism’ describe the new business model and market form of the web. These forms of digital capitalism have begun to infuse the higher education landscape by merging with existing political demands for universities to become more data-driven, competitive, and market-focused. This article presents a case study of the education business Pearson and its expansion of the digital platform as a model for global higher education reform. A key ‘edu-business’ in the ‘global education industry’, Pearson has pivoted to online program management platforms, on-demand digital learning platforms, and intensive mobilization of data analytics to enact its strategic business priorities. These developments position Pearson as an authoritative source for both the evaluation and valuation of HE as a market. The analysis foregrounds the micro-processes involved as Pearson has sought to make, exploit, and maintain market opportunities in HE, demonstrating how the market form of digital capitalism is being reproduced by commercial power-players in the global higher education industry. As an actor in the sociotechnical arrangement of markets, the digital platform is a key participant in HE reforms that are intended to align the public mission of universities with the private interests of digital capitalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Early online date11 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2020


  • data
  • edu-business
  • higher education
  • marketization
  • Pearson
  • platform


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