Higher education and research face the pressure of globalization, competition and commercialization. The rising cost of higher education in the western world, combined with increasing strains in the job market and a poor economic environment, contribute to these pressures. According to CourseSmart, an e-textbook provider, tuition in the United States has increased 1120% since 1978. It is no surprise, therefore, that the recent boom in massive open online courses (MOOCs) has occupied debates and newspaper columns over the past 12 months. Directly or indirectly, the boom in MOOCs is putting higher education on the spot, along with the larger research sector. The speed at which change will happen has yet to be determined, but there is agreement that change will be deep, and that those universities that will be able to turn their challenges into opportunities will thrive.