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Business models for higher education: an Australian perspective

Xuemei Tian (Faculty of Higher Education, Swinburne University of Technology, Lilydale, Melbourne, Australia)
Bill Martin (Faculty of Higher Education, Swinburne University of Technology, Lilydale, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the links between value creation and university business models in a dynamic global higher education marketplace.


This paper combines primary and secondary research to critique the current “export led” business models of universities in a context of growing competition and conflicting perceptions of value among various stakeholders.


In a context of market turbulence, funding crises and concerns over competition, complexity and sustainability, there are concerns over the longer term viability of current university business models, reflected in indications of differentiation among providers.

Research limitations/implications

The paper has emerged from the primary research into business models in book publishing (Australian Research Council) and subsequent book on digital publishing (Ashgate Publishers). Here, the authors have applied the same model building process to what has been learned about university business models from the wider literature. While this means that much of the research is secondary, there is still an original element in the model building and analysis processes.

Practical implications

The paper has practical implications for university planners seeking to review or replace their business models in an increasingly complex and challenging global marketplace.

Social implications

The paper has implications for a number of stakeholders – university managers and their staff, business partners, students, government and professional bodies. In a wider sense it relates to concerns over complexity, social responsibility and sustainability at both organisational and community levels.


University business models have received relatively little attention in the management literature, and frequently this has involved little more than allusions to business models than detailed treatment of their structure and content. This paper fills a gap by providing a number of alternative business models for universities. Although the broad context is that of Australian universities, the analysis is applicable to the circumstances of other countries.



Tian, X. and Martin, B. (2014), "Business models for higher education: an Australian perspective", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 33 No. 10, pp. 932-948.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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