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Higher education students as consumers? Evidence from England

Brooks, Rachel and Abrahams, Jessica (2018) Higher education students as consumers? Evidence from England In: Educational Choices, Aspirations and Transitions in Europe: Systemic, Institutional and Subjective Constraints. Routledge Research in International and Comparative Education . Routledge. ISBN 978-1138104037

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It is now widely assumed in England – by academics and social commentators alike – that, as a result of the introduction of a wide range of market reforms over the past few decades, English students have become consumers of higher education (HE). In this chapter we draw on two sources of data to interrogate critically these assumptions in relation to both students’ choice-making processes and experiences of degree-level study. Firstly, we analyse the extent to which students are constructed as consumers in contemporary policy documents, including the white paper Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice (DBIS, 2016), which provides the basis for the Higher Education Bill which has recently passed through the UK parliament. Secondly, we consider the extent to which these constructions are shared by students themselves, using data from focus groups in a diverse sample of English higher education institutions (HEIs). We explore whether students contest these constructions and/or offer their own alternatives. The structure of our chapter is as follows: we first discuss the background to the research, by outlining key facets of the higher education system in England, and some of the main theoretical debates that are pertinent to our study. We then briefly describe our research methods before going on to present our findings in some detail – comparing the degree of congruence between policy constructions and student understandings. In our conclusion, we discuss some of the systemic challenges that emerge from our data.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Editors :
Tarabini, Aina
Ingram, Nicola
Date : 30 June 2018
Funders : European Research Council (ERC)
Grant Title : Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2018 – Routledge
Additional Information : Educational Choices, Transitions and Aspirations in Europe analyses educational choices and transitions in eight different European countries/regions and provides an engaging means of considering issues of inequality through international comparisons. The book is underpinned by explorations of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, which share the common goal of highlighting and challenging educational inequalities in relation to political imaginings and discursive constructions of notions of aspirations and choice.
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 13 Mar 2018 13:14
Last Modified : 11 Dec 2018 11:23

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