CIRE - Undergraduate orientations towards higher education in Germany and England: problematizing the notion of ‘student as a customer’.
Dr. Richard Budd, Graduate School of Education
There is a great deal of discussion in the academic literature that neoliberal conditions in higher education frame students as customers. Some feel that rankings and marketing, the presence of student satisfaction surveys, and particularly tuition fees, encourage an instrumental, passive attitude towards a university education. There is, though, relatively little research on this. Some have assumed a customer orientation in students and generated evidence confirming this, while more inductive work is beginning to paint a more complex, nuanced picture. It seems that some of the expectations or fears are being realised, but that this is also mediated by other dispositions.
This study explores the orientations towards university of undergraduates in Germany and England, countries where somewhat different higher education policies have been applied. Distinctions between the German and English students did emerge, but these were less based on those countries’ unequal engagement with fees and rankings and more to do with other contrasting aspects of their university cultures. Furthermore, it appears that the current conceptualisation of this topic is insufficient in addressing how students might view their time at university. It will be argued that if ‘student as customer’ is to provide an appropriate shorthand, it requires significant revision.
Chair: Professor Michael Crossley, CIRE Director
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