Economies of scale are often cited in the higher education literature as being one of the drivers for the deployment of e-learning. They are variously used to support the notions that higher education is becoming more global, that national policy towards e-learning should promote scale efficiencies, that larger institutions will be better able to compete in the future, and that there should be substantial investment in the development of e-learning materials and online courses. These claims are discussed, but it is argued that the evidence is mixed. In particular, many of the supposed benefits of economies of scale derive from the related concept of economies of scope, and an understanding of how economies of scale and scope interact is important in analysing the future development of e-learning. The article argues that economies of scope need to identified, better understood and planned for if we are to realise the potential economic benefits of e-learning. © 2008 Society for Research into Higher Education.
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