‘Students as consumers? The perspectives of students’ union leaders across Europe’

Posted in Research on May 26th, 2021 by steve

Abstract: Various scholars have argued that higher education is becoming increasingly similar across Europe as a result of processes of marketisation and neo-liberalisation, as well as the creation of a European Higher Education Area. While much of this body of work has focussed on governance, institutional structures and reforms related to teaching and learning, some have suggested that the subjectivities and perspectives of students have also altered – becoming more consumer-like in their orientation. Nevertheless, there has been relatively little work across the continent that has explored, in a comparative manner, students’ own perspectives or those of students who represent other students. This article starts to redress this omission by drawing on interviews conducted with students’ union leaders across six European nations to examine the extent to which they shared the same understanding of students, focussing specifically on the concept of student-as-consumer.

Rachel Brooks, Students as consumers? The perspectives of students’ union leaders across Europe, Higher Education Quarterly, https://doi.org/10.1111/hequ.12332. First published: 24 May 2021.


Refunds controversy shines light on quality of third-level learning

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on July 31st, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Students were left without basic equipment. Printers were faulty for months on end. The outdated studio regularly broke down – and when it did work, the quality was poor. Students reported little or no feedback on assignments they handed in for the first semester and had to request them in order to get an idea of how they were performing …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 31 July]

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College life offers challenge but most satisfied

Posted in Life on January 22nd, 2018 by steve

Ireland“More than one-third of Irish third-level students feel like ‘detached consumers’ in terms of their education. The finding is contained in sixth Eurostudent study into how students experience university life. More than 20,000 students attending third-level colleges were surveyed as part of the report. The findings show that, while 42% of students feel like they are partners in their education, almost the same amount (36%) feel like ‘detached consumers’ …” (more)

[Conall Ó Fátharta and Niall Murray, Irish Examiner, 22 January]

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Contracts, complaints and unintended consequences

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on August 7th, 2017 by steve

“Whenever a minister announces a potential extension to the rights of students, I’ve started to notice a familiar pattern, and Jo Johnson’s announcement of an OfS consultation on the content of student contracts (his own little regulatory dead cat on the fees and debt table) is a case in point …” (more)

[Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe, 7 August]

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You only get what you pay for. Or do you?

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on February 13th, 2017 by steve

“For as long as students have been paying (at least in part and/or in arrears) for their university education, an entire cadre of sector types have been arguing that when students are seen as consumers, bad things happen …” (more)

[Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe, 13 February]

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Higher education: the value proposition

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on December 20th, 2016 by steve

“There are few people who would argue that higher education does not have value, both for the student or graduate and for society. But perceptions of what that value is, and who or what derives the most benefit from it, can vary greatly. In addition, some people have, over recent years, claimed that the growth of higher education has been accompanied or even prompted by a neoliberal perspective that has corrupted educational principles …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 19 December]

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We don’t have students any more – just customers

Posted in Governance and administration on December 13th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“With the globalisation and deregulation of trade, governments are increasingly susceptible to the influence of powerful commercial interests. Organisations such as the OECD, the World Bank and the EU mediate this influence and thereby exercise in direct control over national higher education systems …” (more)

[Kathleen Lynch, Irish Times, 12 December]

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On the Poverty of Student Choice

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on August 1st, 2016 by steve

UK“After the previous White Paper, ‘Students at the Heart of the System’, which accompanied an increase of tuition fees to £9,000 a year, higher education is now faced with a new White Paper, whose title has a strangely 1990s ring to it: ‘Success as a Knowledge Economy’ …” (more)

[Jamie Woodcock and Alberto Toscano, The Sociological Review, 19 July]

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Universities getting better on consumer law issues, but work still to be done, says CMA

Posted in Legal issues on July 26th, 2016 by steve

UK“Awareness among universities of their responsibilities under consumer protection law is increasing, although some poor practices remain, the UK’s competition watchdog has found …” (more)

[Out-Law.com, 26 July]

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College students should be treated as partners not consumers – HEA

Posted in Governance and administration on April 14th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Students at third level should be treated as partners rather than ‘detached consumers’, according to a new report produced by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The report says the student-as-consumer relationship, which is increasingly common in US and UK universities, treats students as purchasers of a contract for education …” (more)

[The report is here]
[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 14 April]

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We don’t need no free-market education

Posted in Governance and administration on February 23rd, 2016 by steve

Ireland“What do universities and restaurants have in common? Quite a lot, it appears, if you happen to endorse free-market values of education.Consider the following comments by Ruairí Quinn when he was minister for education a few years ago …” (more)

[Stephen O’Brien, Irish Times, 23 February]

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Consumerism Dragging Down Student Achievement? Not so Fast

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on February 18th, 2016 by steve

UK“So, there was an interesting article from Studies in Higher Education making the rounds on social media yesterday. Written by a trio of UK researchers, the article is entitled ‘The Student-as-Consumer Approach in Higher Education and its Effects on Academic Performance’, and is – miraculously – available ungated, here. The short version is that students who have a consumerist attitude towards education tend to have lower academic performance …” (more)

[Alex Usher, HESA, 18 February]


Three-quarters of universities ‘fail to put vital course information online’

Posted in Legal issues on October 23rd, 2015 by steve

UK“Three-quarters of UK universities are failing to provide students with important course information on their websites, according to a survey conducted by Which?. The consumer watchdog visited the websites of 50 higher education providers and found that 38 did not provide at least one piece of information which the Competition and Markets Authority said should be ‘easily accessible’ in order to comply with consumer protection legislation …” (more)

[Chris Havergal, Times Higher Education, 23 Occtoer]

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Experts urge universities to review student terms and conditions ahead of new consumer protection drive

Posted in Legal issues on June 12th, 2015 by steve

UK“UK higher education (HE) providers must review their terms and conditions for students ahead of an upcoming compliance review or risk civil – or, in extreme circumstances, criminal – sanctions …” (more)

[Rami Labib and Richard Snape, OutLaw.com, 11 June]

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Degree withheld in Worcester fees dispute

Posted in Legal issues on April 9th, 2015 by steve

UK“University may apply to lift stay on small claims court pursuit of graduate determined not to pay for ‘inadequate’ tuition. A student who refused to pay some of her course fees because she believes her tuition was inadequate has condemned the university for withholding her certificate until she pays …” (more)

[Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, 9 April]

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Universities warned over breaching consumer law

Posted in Legal issues on March 12th, 2015 by steve

UK“Universities have been warned by the Competition and Markets Authority that they ‘may be in breach of consumer law’ if they fail to meet obligations to students …” (more)

[John Morgan, Times Higher Education, 12 March]

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College à la carte: The ‘unbundling’ of higher education will allow students to earn new kinds of educational credentials

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on March 10th, 2015 by steve

USA“College has long been a package deal. Traditional students pay for a bundle of services — a fixed number of courses, as well as access to libraries, gyms, campus quads, and more — as they work toward conventional degrees that some say feel one-size-fits-all. These days, though, more and more colleges are experimenting with unbundling that package …” (more)

[Jeffrey Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 March]

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The changing student experience

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on February 17th, 2015 by steve

UK“When the present English tuition fee regime was being planned, there were plenty of voices from inside universities warning that it would change the nature of the relationship between students and their universities for the worse. Students would, it was feared, become customers rather than partners in an academic enterprise …” (more)

[Paul Temple and Claire Callender, Wonkhe, 17 February]

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Students facing ‘unlawful’ small print at almost 30 universities

Posted in Legal issues on February 5th, 2015 by steve

UK“Many universities are using ‘unlawful’ terms allowing them to make ‘unfair’ changes to courses midway through a degree, a consumer watchdog has said. About half of universities use terms that give them the freedom to change courses after students have signed up, according to a new survey of UK universities by Which? …” (more)

[Jack Grove, Times Higher Education, 5 February]

[The Which? report is here.]

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Universities at risk of dumbing down into secondary schools

Posted in Teaching on August 22nd, 2014 by steve

“In the current rush to achieve the highest student satisfaction and best positions on university league tables we are at significant risk of dumbing down what’s being taught at universities …” (more)

[Alister Scott, The Conversation, 22 August]

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