Students as Consumers: Commodifying or Democratising Learning?

Students as Consumers: Commodifying or Democratising Learning? Abstract The positioning of students as ‘consumers’ of education is becoming a global phenomenon. This paper begins by drawing on insights from both the marketing and education literatures to assess the impact of this development on the processes and outcomes of education, on the professional practices of faculty and on widening participation. Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual framework is then applied to analyse how consumer mechanisms are mediated by the organisational cultures and practices within universities. These theoretical insights are combined with data from different national contexts to identify both positive and negative aspects of this trend. The paper goes on to consider the critique of consumerism as something that promotes commodification and passive learning. Some other ways of empowering students more actively in their learning, including ‘student voice’ and ‘co-production’ initiatives that are currently fashionable in Western policy contexts, are then discussed. While these are seen by some commentators as examples of ‘pre-figurative democratic practice’, others have identified them as having the potential to alienate students through tokenistic provision or as serving a neo-liberal policy agenda through the ‘responsibilisation’ of students. The paper concludes by suggesting that such initiatives may have the potential to challenge academic complacency without undermining core academic values. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Chinese Education Brill

Students as Consumers: Commodifying or Democratising Learning?

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
2212-585X
eISSN
2212-5868
D.O.I.
10.1163/22125868-12340022
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract The positioning of students as ‘consumers’ of education is becoming a global phenomenon. This paper begins by drawing on insights from both the marketing and education literatures to assess the impact of this development on the processes and outcomes of education, on the professional practices of faculty and on widening participation. Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual framework is then applied to analyse how consumer mechanisms are mediated by the organisational cultures and practices within universities. These theoretical insights are combined with data from different national contexts to identify both positive and negative aspects of this trend. The paper goes on to consider the critique of consumerism as something that promotes commodification and passive learning. Some other ways of empowering students more actively in their learning, including ‘student voice’ and ‘co-production’ initiatives that are currently fashionable in Western policy contexts, are then discussed. While these are seen by some commentators as examples of ‘pre-figurative democratic practice’, others have identified them as having the potential to alienate students through tokenistic provision or as serving a neo-liberal policy agenda through the ‘responsibilisation’ of students. The paper concludes by suggesting that such initiatives may have the potential to challenge academic complacency without undermining core academic values.

Journal

International Journal of Chinese EducationBrill

Published: Feb 24, 2014

Keywords: Students; Consumers; Learning; Commodification; Democracy

References

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