16 October 2008

On the commodification of higher education

Here is another voice, this time Paul Standish of the Institute of Education, raised against the consumer orientation of HE. In particular, he argues against excessive demands for accountability and transparency, pointing out that they are reductionist and unable to do justice to the complexity of education at this level.

In the same edition of Times Higher Education Terence Kealey of the University of Buckingham is highly critical of the assumptions on which the Quality Assurance Agency purports to review institutions; it institutionalises mistrust of professionals. Actually, I think he protests a little too much; he must have known how they operate, and since Buckingham is the UK's only private university, he was not obliged to invite them in at all. So why did he? Even so, there is a fit between the two articles; and of course the interesting thing is that as a private university, one might expect Buckingham to be more consumer focused than public institutions. Since it scores top for student satisfaction, it may have an appropriate consumer orientation, rather than a "toxic" one, to use the new cliche.


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