Amazon on campus

Amazon sets up shop at Purdue

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According to @insidehighered Purdue University is to become the next “Amazon Campus”, which will allow access to Amazon offered products through the Purdue Student Store.

 

Coming to a campus near you

Coming to a campus near you

Beyond Amazon’s impact on campus bookstores’ bottom lines, the company’s presence in higher education has mostly been felt in the post office, as students opt to order rental or used books online. With the expansion of its Amazon Campus program, the company is aiming for more visibility on college campuses.The co-branded program at Purdue is the second of its kind. The University of California at Davis announced a pilot with Amazon last November, and the company has expansion plans in the works, a spokeswoman said in an email.In addition to offering priority shipping options, Amazon will staff locations on campus where students can pick up their orders and drop off rented textbooks when they are due.
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UC-Davis, in comparison, uses Amazon’s bright yellow automated lockers. Both benefits are expected to roll out during the next year at Purdue, according to a press release. As part of its deal with Amazon, UC-Davis collects “a little more than 2 percent of most purchases” from the university-branded store. In the first two academic quarters since the launch of the pilot, the partnership has netted the university $139,000, much of which has gone toward funding short-term financial aid and textbook scholarships.

So it sounds like it might be a pretty good deal for universities and for their students. And it might ensure that campus bookshops, which have slowly been disappearing, might have a future after all. But it also means of course that Amazon’s dominance will continue to grow. Presumably they could also extend into wider provision of goods and services to universities from laboratory supplies to stationery. So is the future Amazon for everything?

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University Rankings Amazon Style?

An alternative take on university rankings

Drawing on the Amazon approach, Ben Wildavsky suggests a different way of approaching university league tables:

For many years now, the worldwide explosion of college rankings that took off in the 1980s has prompted sharp debates about whether, and how, universities ought to be measured against one another. Some critics ask whether a university-to-university match up, either within a single nation or globally, is really the best frame of reference when a more appropriate comparison might be between academic departments within the same field. Others fear that their own nations’ institutions of higher learning will never be given a fair shake in league tables marred by the methodological biases of foreigners – hence the rise of alternative metrics such as those that occasioned the memorable headline “French Do Well in French World Rankings.”

There is a different approach though, which draws on the Amazon model of sub-categorisation:

Memories came back to me of my old job as editor of the U.S. News & World Report college guides. Beyond the contentious national rankings, U.S. News creates separate lists for small liberal arts colleges, nonselective comprehensive universities, and so forth. In a little-recognized bit of genius, all are sliced and diced by geography as well. So an unremarkable institution ranked in the bottom quartile overall could boast that it was the top liberal arts college in the Upper Michigan Peninsula. Carve the data thin enough and everyone’s a winner.

It’s something that works well in the US and could, conceivably, work with international tables too. But in the UK, the arguments about which institutions would be allocated to which categories would be bloody. Worth a go though. And then everyone could be a winner here too.