The purpose of this study is to analyse the prospective impact of the future of work on universities.
Several brief case studies of heralded disruptors of higher education (HE) – including digital badges, for-profit universities and massive open online courses – are reviewed to illustrate inertial forces in the system.
The results indicate that several social forces will protect most universities from significant disruption, with the impetus for change being felt mostly in the periphery of the system.
The argument presented in this study serves as a corrective to claims that looming changes in the nature of work will radically disrupt universities. It calls for more nuanced theorizing about the interaction between technical and institutional forces in HE.