by Fiona Ferbrache
Two issues have caught my attention this week: the headline that “Universities fell short of recruitment targets by almost 30,000 students this year” (The Telegraph), and crowdfunding, on which there seems to have been a recent wave of articles (see, for example The Guardian). The two can be linked. It has been noted that the rise in university fees has dissuaded many young people from applying to university, while crowdfunding has been put forward as one way of tackling student debt (ibusinessblog).
Crowdfunding – the practice through which individuals pool financial contributions to a larger collective in the name of a particular issue or effort – has generated much support for civic projects, disaster relief, and business start ups (The Guardian), but has had little impact for students’ educational purposes, until more recently. CrowdFundEDU is a new platform that was established earlier this year to fundraise for tuition fees, and even as an alternative to reduce student loan debt (although mainly in America).
Sites such as CrowdFundEDU represent “new opportunities for activist, civic, grassroots, indigenous and other groups to leverage web-based geographic information technologies in their efforts to effect social change” (Elwood and Leszczynski 2012). This description is given by Elwood and Leszczynski (2012) in their early view article exploring different examples of new spatial media, of which crowdfunding is one example. The significance of these relatively new crowdsourcing sites, they argue, is the role they play in advancing different epistemological strategies i.e. for establishing the legitimacy and authority of knowledge claims. Based on analysis of several organisations using new spatial media, the authors suggest that understandings of what constitutes activism are being transformed for different publics.
In the context of crowdfunding for educational benefit, young people may look towards new social media as a means of side-stepping conventional forms of funding. We might gain some sense of how this could develop, as an accepted source to enable or enhance abilities to learn, by exploring the successes of other initiatives interacting with crowdfunding online (The Guardian).
Crowdfunding Tackles Student Debt Crisis. News10 ABC, 2013
Crowdfunding offers alternative to traditional investments. The Guardian May, 04 2013
Crowd-funding powers dynamic business. The Guardian, 31 May 2013
How Crowdfunding Is Tackling Student Debt in Britain. iBusiness Blog
Universities suffered huge student shortfall after fees hike. The Telegraph, 2013