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Student complaints on the rise

June 17, 2011

Student complaints have risen by 33% in England and Wales, a figure regarded as clear evidence of a growing consumerist attitude. And of course this is exactly what was anticipated and hoped for by Lord Browne in his report that recommended raising tuition fees.

Rob Behrens, head of the independent adjudicator’s office, has said:

‘There has been a lot of policy discussion about fees in the past year and it’s concentrated students’ minds into thinking about the merits of what they’re getting.

‘It’s encouraged them to be more like consumers – and consumers are more likely to complain,” said Mr Behrens.

But this begs a number of questions, such as, why are consumers more likely to complain, say, than students, citizens or inmates? Also if this new consumer culture in higher education is to be welcomed is it because of a new found willingness among students to complain? Are student complaints integral to improving higher education – assuming, of course, that there is something currently wrong with higher education that only customer complaints can fix? In other words, what will consumerism remedy in higher education?

Also, how will universities responded to the rise in customer complaints? Will they offer refunds, discounts and exchanges to dissatisfied customers? Or will universities and their staff become more defensive? Will they become more adept at managing customer expectations? Will we see the growth in an institutional culture of arse-covering?

Fuck me, there are so many questions.

Behrens also said that a tough graduate jobs market had made students more aware of the importance of university.

Really? In what way are students more aware of the importance of university? Does this awareness manifest itself in a diligent and conscientious approach to study? Or a new, aggressive culture of complaint and litigation?

We’ll know shortly.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2011 3:30 pm

    As you know all too well, I suspect, it will move the relationship between student and university from “you come to university, apply yourself diligently, and therefore experience education and maybe achieve high grades in your work that mean something” to “you pay us a lot of money and then expect to be served a good education and good grades as a result”.

    Consumers do not, generally, work for the products they consume. They work for the money to pay for them. The goods and services are a reward for the “real” work they do. The same will apply to education.

    We are already seeing the growth in institutional arse-covering you posit. It infects everything we do, especially the delivery of “fail” grades – which are so troublesome to dispense we are encouraged not to if at all possible.

  2. Rab permalink*
    June 18, 2011 3:47 pm

    I’ve heard the idea floated that we should think of university like a health farm. You pay to get in but it’s ostensibly down to you whether or not you get healthier… No… I don’t like the analogy either… It sounds like it was the Department of Arse-covering that coined it.

  3. June 19, 2011 11:36 am

    Dear Dr Rab, It’s llyod from your module. I know it’s railly late at night but am in pub in bad state after getting 43 in my essey on ken loche from you. I worked railly hard for that and looked at awl his films and red tuns of books. Yet my mate Alan never went to see u and he did his essey the night before and he got 65. It’s not fair and I demand a remark! I also went to ur office lots of time for ur advise but you were never there as usual. I think ur opening hrs our too short. They shoud be 9 to 9 cos I am workin during the day and always miss you when I come in at 5.30. I hate ken loche and think ur pretty rubbish too. C u in court.

  4. July 7, 2011 10:22 pm

    Hello Rab check out this link:

    What would be the criteria for a dead end university course?
    Whatever the tory scumbags decides! It will not really be the ‘students’ choice! I think this is an attack on art courses like art history, fine art and media studies.

    What Photography BA degrees? There is no guarantee with even studying under the best photography lecturers with ‘access’ to the best contacts in the industry of making a living totally from photography. I know this and I have not even been to university.

    If the tory scumbags are in power long enough like last time 1st drama schools will go, then media studies & art history and lastly photography within a couple of years of each other.

  5. July 7, 2011 10:43 pm

    I suppose it begs the question of what university is for. All this “University is a place that prepares young people for the world of work” seems new to me. I thought it was a place to learn things and develop the mind. Is this an illusion? Was university always a preparation for work (ie the Civil Service/Empire in the 19th century; management type stuff in the 20th), but I just didn’t realise? Was the 60s a fleeting dream? Discuss…

  6. Rab permalink*
    July 9, 2011 12:57 pm

    Hi Freelance and Chris,
    I was speaking to a prospective student recently who asked me what sort of job he would be doing after university. The question just sounded absurd. How the fuck would I know what sort of job he’ll be doing after university. That will depend on lots of things beyond the control of his course director, course team and the broader university he attends: things like the job market and state of the economy, as well as his own dedication and aptitudes. All education can really do is, as you say Freelance, help them learn things and develop their minds, which sounds modest these days but is actually pretty good.

    I’m not as pessimist as you, although I entirely understand where you’re coming from. I think the government aspire to get rid of what they see as ‘mickey mouse’ courses but I have a hunch they’re in for a surprise. I don’t think Media Studies and related courses are going to sink without trace. There may be some casualties but these courses are popular with a lot of kids. And not because their seen as easier necessarily (they may well be). But because Media Studies speaks to the lived experience of young people today. It’s about the word they live in. I think Media Studies, Journalism Studies and other courses related to the arts and creativity are not going away anytime soon.

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