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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Has the student voice been tamed? | Features | Times Higher Education

Has the student voice been tamed? | Features | Times Higher Education

McQuillan, Dean at Kingston, makes an analysis from inside the academy, with a bold and unusual impartiality, pointing out the divergence between real student confusion, distress and anger, and the managerial massaging of confectioned student opinion through survey and feedback instruments. An unnamed academic in The Guardian made similar points - "Student feedback is a waste of time". Interesting that they felt unable to name their institution.

This can go two ways.

Either the Unis will get sophisticated at customer response. They will handle it with a mixture of concession, real measures, and PR, and get out of the corner they are in.

Or the Unis will go for repression, denial, and false data. If so, I think there could be some real anger out there waiting to boil over. Many students will pay £100,000 after interest for their three years at Uni and that will not make them a pushover.

What's clear is that the current reliance on opinion management is not going to be sustainable. I think McQuillan's diagnosis is spot on:

when students are in occupation, voluntarily distracting themselves from their primary purpose of study, something has gone badly wrong. If, since 2010, there has been a marked increase in occupation and protest this is because something is very wrong indeed in our universities. We live in a moment of crisis in higher education in which, under the guise of austerity measures, pedagogical interaction between students and their teachers is being redesigned as a consumer relationship and the student experience is giving way to graduate indenture. At the sharp end of the reform of higher education in England, critical student voices are aware of this and are astute enough to recognise it as the active disinvestment by the state in higher education, facilitating the intrusion of private finance into the post-Robbins dispensation of access-for-all within a public university system.

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