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Covid-19 forced higher education sectors across the world to digitize the entire university experience online. There are now calls for universities to continue chasing continued and further digitization, often from for-profit businesses and those in Silicon Valley who have been promising to disrupt the sector for decades. We argue that the pandemic has illustrated how crucial universities are to their local communities, and efforts should be made to emphasize their physical place and space. The destruction of American cities in favor of auto-centric suburbs provides a parallel for the possible future of higher education. The Cult of Efficiency mindset and accountability models that dominated neoliberal discourse offered the impetus for highway construction through city centers, often razing Black neighborhoods and ruining communities and culture along the way. The calls for the full digitization of universities echo this same possible destruction for the sector. This is not a Luddite warning to reject all digitization, instead, it is a rejection of the hyper-capitalization of higher education and the disruption promised by for-profit businesses, along with a reminder that the sector should be a local public good.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Postdigital Science and Education, in 2021 following peer review. The final publication may differ and is available at Springer via

A free-to-read copy of the final published article is available here.

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