Having, being and higher education: The marketisation of the university and the transformation of the student into consumer

Mike Molesworth, Elizabeth Nixon, Richard Scullion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

307 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this paper we express concerns that the marketisation of British higher education that has accompanied its expansion has resulted in some sections becoming pedagogically limited. We draw from Fromm's humanist philosophy based on having to argue that the current higher education (HE) market discourse promotes a mode of existence, where students seek to 'have a degree' rather than 'be learners'. This connects pedagogic theory to a critique of consumer culture. We argue that a 'market-led' university responds to consumer calls by focusing on the content students want at a market rate. It may decrease intellectual complexity if this is not in demand, and increase connections with the workplace if this is desired. Once, under the guidance of the academic, the undergraduate had the potential to be transformed into a scholar, someone who thinks critically, but in our consumer society such 'transformation' is denied and 'confirmation' of the student as consumer is favoured. We further argue that there is a danger that the new HE's link to business through the expansion of vocational courses in business, marketing and related offerings, inevitably embeds expanded HE in a culture of having. This erodes other possible roles for education because a consumer society is unlikely to support a widened HE sector that may work to undermine its core ideology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-287
Number of pages11
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Fromm
  • Marketisation
  • Student as consumer
  • Transformation
  • Vocational education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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