Are ‘consumer’ students reluctant to engage?
This got us thinking about the ‘students of today’, and how different their experience is to our own. After all, we went to university back before 50% participation, tuition fees, uncapped student numbers and competition for our ‘custom’. Nobody mentioned employability skills, it didn’t occur to us that we might not get a ‘graduate job’, and we certainly didn’t know if our institution had good ‘graduate outcomes’.
Now – particularly in England – the policy discourse focuses on students as consumers, ensuring value for money, and graduate earnings as a key indicator of institutional quality.
The Office for Students guide to the Teaching Excellence & Graduate Outcomes Framework (TEF) tells us: ‘Students invest significant amounts of time and money in their higher education. They rightly expect a high-quality academic experience.’[i] This is undoubtedly true, but HE colleagues tell us that, in seeking to measure that experience, the TEF fails to recognise different starting points, aspirations and career preferences, not to mention the wider benefits of HE. Some also worry that there is a growing sense of entitlement among students, and an unwillingness to put in extra or unexpected effort.
[i] OfS (2019) The Teaching Excellence & Student Outcomes Framework (TEF): A short guide to the awards. https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/0c6bd23e-57b8-4f22-a236-fb27346cde6e/tef_short_guide_-june_2019_final.pdf