What are we to make of the changes to Higher Education policy, which are making the sector more “consumer-led?” and causing concern amongst academics?
The Higher Education and Research bill outlines the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), where universities will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals on the basis of a range of factors including student satisfaction, and will determine their ability to raise fees. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/08/universities-warned-snowflake-student-demands/
Baroness Wolf, a professor at King’s College London (KCL), warned: “Universities are increasingly nervous about doing anything that will create overt dissatisfaction among students because they are being told that student satisfaction is key. It has had a real effect on the willingness of universities to stand up to student demands which in the past have been removing statues, safe spaces and no-platforming. This whole movement is a direct threat to academic standards and the freedom of speech.”
This came at the same time as another story about students at SOAS wanting to remove “white” philosophers from their course in a stand against colonialism. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/01/08/university-students-demand-philosophers-including-plato-kant/
There has been an ongoing debate since the introduction of fees about whether students should accept the academic framework, content and processes of a University, or whether, as consumers paying fees, they have a right to expect service and standards as with any other consumer market.
This is the danger of privatisation in a sector like education (or the NHS for that matter) where there are other motives and imperatives rather than profit and where “market forces” do not necessarily drive up standards, but rather have unfortunate and unforeseen consequences (such as on freedom of speech) causing long-term damage to the system.