The student as customer: a study of the intensified marketisation of higher education in England.
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThe literature review revealed two opposing views of the ‘student as customer’; either it is considered to be a deliberate policy construct rooted in the marketisation of higher education, which encourages public universities to behave like private businesses. Or it is considered to be a natural extension of rising consumerism in society, rendering universities as ‘cathedrals of consumption’. Both perspectives recognise that there is an attempt at creating a market in English higher education. This study discusses a ‘paradigm shift’ signalling an intensification of marketisation that began in the early 1980s. The purpose is to identify how these policy changes are perceived, by interviewing a large sample of senior managers and policy analysts in English higher education. Four themes emerged from the interviews. First, universities were said to be becoming increasingly “business like” suggesting that senior managers of English universities were faced with an identity crisis in grappling with their purpose as businesses or educational institutions. Second, was the idea that they performed in a “market like” fashion, displaying an uncomfortable acceptance of the idea whilst being open to the discussion of a free market in the future. Third, was the characterisation of student relationships with the university as “customer like” revealing an uncertainty as to whether students are customers or not. Fourth, was “individualism” a concept accepting the fact that universities would have to see higher education as an individual investment by a student. The implication of these uncertain themes is that senior managers would need to get out of ‘debate mode’ to adopt a clear and radical stance instead of being locked in the indecisive “like” dilemmas. They must develop the ability to see through the ‘strategy illusion’ and either challenge or accept the policy-induced uncertainties of higher education in the 21st century.
CitationBanwait, K. (2017) 'The student as customer: a study of the intensified marketisation of higher education in England.' University of Derby [PhD Thesis]
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