ArticlePDF Available

Having, Being and Higher Education: The Marketisation of the University and the Transformation of the Student into Consumer



In this paper we express concerns that the marketisation of British higher education that has accompanied its expansion has resulted in some sections becoming pedagogically limited. We draw from Fromm's humanist philosophy based on having to argue that the current higher education (HE) market discourse promotes a mode of existence, where students seek to ‘have a degree’ rather than ‘be learners’. This connects pedagogic theory to a critique of consumer culture. We argue that a ‘market-led’ university responds to consumer calls by focusing on the content students want at a market rate. It may decrease intellectual complexity if this is not in demand, and increase connections with the workplace if this is desired. Once, under the guidance of the academic, the undergraduate had the potential to be transformed into a scholar, someone who thinks critically, but in our consumer society such ‘transformation’ is denied and ‘confirmation’ of the student as consumer is favoured. We further argue that there is a danger that the new HE's link to business through the expansion of vocational courses in business, marketing and related offerings, inevitably embeds expanded HE in a culture of having. This erodes other possible roles for education because a consumer society is unlikely to support a widened HE sector that may work to undermine its core ideology.
This article was downloaded by: [University of Bath]
On: 15 February 2013, At: 08:18
Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered
office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Teaching in Higher Education
Publication details, including instructions for authors and
subscription information:
Having, being and higher education:
the marketisation of the university and
the transformation of the student into
Mike Molesworth
, Elizabeth Nixon
& Richard Scullion
Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, The Media School at
Bournemouth University, Poole, UK
Version of record first published: 26 May 2009.
To cite this article: Mike Molesworth , Elizabeth Nixon & Richard Scullion (2009): Having, being and
higher education: the marketisation of the university and the transformation of the student into
consumer, Teaching in Higher Education, 14:3, 277-287
To link to this article:
Full terms and conditions of use:
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any
substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,
systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.
The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation
that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any
instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary
sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,
demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or
indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
Having, being and higher education: the marketisation of the university
and the transformation of the student into consumer
Mike Molesworth, Elizabeth Nixon* and Richard Scullion
Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, The Media School at Bournemouth University,
Poole, UK
In this paper we express concerns that the marketisation of British higher
education that has accompanied its expansion has resulted in some sections
becoming pedagogically limited. We draw from Fromm’s humanist philosophy
based on having to argue that the current higher education (HE) market discourse
promotes a mode of existence, where students seek to have a degree’ rather than
be learners’. This connects pedagogic theory to a critique of consumer culture.
We argue that a ‘market-led’ university responds to consumer calls by focusing on
the content students want at a market rate. It may decrease intellectual complexity
if this is not in demand, and increase connections with the workplace if this is
desired. Once, under the guidance of the academic, the undergraduate had the
potential to be transformed into a scholar, someone who thinks critically, but in
our consumer society such ‘transformation’ is denied and ‘confirmation of the
student as consumer is favoured. We further argue that there is a danger that the
new HE’s link to business through the expansion of vocational courses in
business, marketing and related offerings, inevitably embeds expanded HE in a
culture of having. This erodes other possible roles for education because a
consumer society is unlikely to support a widened HE sector that may work to
undermine its core ideology.
Keywords: Fromm; marketisation; student as consumer; vocational education;
In September 2006 a brochure is sent to staff at a post-1992 British university
claiming that ‘Higher Education is changing ... and so must we’. It goes on to warn
that ‘competition is increasing’, ‘students are becoming more demanding’ and that
‘we need to communicate in a consistent and engaging way’. It presents a new
corporate logo, positioning statement and institutional ‘core values’. It concludes
that ‘it is up to all of us to deliver on the brand’ and to ‘bring the brand to life in
everything we do’. The overall message is that the higher education institution (HEI)
is now a business, promoting services via its brand. To further confirm this, the Vice-
Chancellor sends a solicitous message to staff, ‘[the university] ... will now be
competing for students, staff, research and enterprise support, rankings and various
measures of prestige in ways that must seem alien to those who see higher education
as being above the marketplace throng’.
*Corresponding author. Email:
ISSN 1356-2517 print/ISSN 1470-1294 online
# 2009 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13562510902898841
Teaching in Higher Education
Vol. 14, No. 3, June 2009, 277287
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
Our concern is that parts of British higher education (BHE) are pedagogically
constrained by the marketisation that has accompanied its expansion. Given that
universities once aimed to change the student’s intellectual perspective on the world,
we use Fromm’s humanist philosophy to argue that the current market discourse
promotes a mode of existence where students seek to have a degree’ rather than be
learners’. There has long been a tension between ‘idealised’ notions of the purpose of
a university and the reality of students’ experiences. Rothblatt (1993) offers a
compelling history of constant tensions between liberal education and HE. However,
we believe that the purposes and activities of a university are worth debating
frequently and we do so now because of recent radical changes in BHE. With the
degree of marketisation seen in many HEIs, students and the institutions they attend
look only to satisfy a consumer culture which negates even the possibility that higher
education changes the individual’s outlook. Instead many HEIs prepare the student
for a life of consumption by obtaining a well-paid job: a mission of confirmation
rather than transformation. In effect, our concern is that a market ideology is
silencing the debate around the purposes of HE because it articulates its possibilities
so precisely.
We further consider a HE that focuses on Fromm’s being mode of existence. It
might be problematic to assume that such a focus is ‘better’ on the basis that it is a
rejection of a consumer culture, but we note that it is more consistent with accepted
notions of ‘good’ education, as it credits learning with more than instrumental value
and seeks to actualise deep learning (Entwistle 1997). We argue here that historic
arguments for ‘good’ education that seem consistent with Fromm’s being mode are
no longer necessarily consistent with the criteria used by governments, industry,
marketised HEIs, or the students and tutors themselves, that now stand within a
consumer culture based on having.
The higher education (HE) market
The expansion of UK HE has created a market for half of 18-year olds. The British
government appears to be applying capitalist economic principles to HE, competi-
tion amongst producers to reduce costs and to ‘improve’ their offerings based on
consumer demand. This creates new forms of competitive relations as 140 HEIs chase
potential customers from the A-level segments identified by marketing departments.
For us, some sections of the modern British university have become so embedded in
a market economy they have lost the will perhaps the capacity to critique it. Such
institutions become businesses in a manner qualitatively different to the relationships
between university and society that Rothblatt (1993) describes. Whilst Rothblatt
demonstrates that universities have always been attached to some part of society, not
separate from it, he also makes it clear that the university retained an identity as an
active agent contributing to society’s self-understanding. Thus we would expect a
university to have the potential to critically reflect on the market economy beyond
the campus. Yet today some sections of HE are subsumed in the dominant discourse
of business and the Times Higher frequently reports on the academic angst caused by
the onset of such neo-liberal concerns. For example, Mills (2007) writes that
ironically universities have internalised the vision of students as customers more
consistently than those in government, claiming that the contradiction of maintain-
ing both academic standards and customer satisfaction places ‘unbearable demands’
278 M. Molesworth et al.
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
on universities. In the USA some say this position has become a form of academic
orthodoxy (Potts 2005).
Evidence of increased market orientation in UK HE is easy to find. Some
universities are using sales techniques to attract students with free laptops, whilst
advertisements for HE courses feature job and career prospects very prominently
(Ford 2007; Lacey 2006; and see Education Guardian 19 August 2006). Our own
institution is currently running an MA recruitment poster campaign claiming, ‘Get a
better job, get a Masters’. The Times Higher chronicles this market influence with
articles reporting, for example, the potential introduction of business executives with
no teaching experience into school senior management levels (Meikle 2007). The
economic imperative driving the expansion of HE has also instigated an increase in
the uptake of vocational degrees (UCAS 2007) which, coupled with the employ-
ability agenda, prioritises the needs of industry for such universities and this is
implicit in policy: the massification of HE is designed to support industry by
providing a ‘better’ workforce.
This drive to commodify the educational offering is both a top-down and
bottom-up process. The Treasury, funding councils and vice-chancellors develop
strategy that leads to a market focus, while many of the expanded student group
arrive as fee-paying customers knowing how to ‘play’ markets to maximise self-
interest. They are well versed in the pseudo-sovereignty status afforded them by
broader consumer culture. Their experiences in commercial marketplaces and their
confidence as consumers, allow them to carry the same attitudes over to public goods
such as education. As Caru and Cova (2003) point out, where there is a financial
exchange, a consumer experience is produced.
We note from our own experiences in a vocational HE institution, how many
students have re-formulated this behaviour into beliefs that HE is now their ‘right’.
We see the emergence of a dominant idea that suggests getting a ‘good degree’ is an
entitlement paid for by their fees (Naidoo and Jamieson 2005; Potts 2005): they want
to have a degree, in order to secure a ‘professional’ job. Their desire for a 2:1 is
framed primarily by its subsequent bargaining power in the job market. They mostly
do not want to be a learner or scholar of their chosen subject (see Kewell and Beeby
2003; Waghid 2006). They are not particularly receptive to the idea that through
immersing themselves in their subject they may change as a person. Indeed there is
little perceived value in doing so given their desire to attend university is primarily to
become a more employable person, responding to the restrictive societal interest in
graduation as a means of personal wealth creation (Gibbs 2001). This change
appears to be justified and supported by an increasing acceptance that this is the
purpose of HE, a provision that appears to eliminate transformational opportunities.
The emerging role of some parts of HE is now to fix in students an unquestioning
acceptance of the primacy of consumer desires met by market offerings.
Having and being
In considering HE as a market addressing consumer ‘needs’ (rather than a public
good addressing learners’ needs), we turn our attention away from discussions of
‘good’ teaching and towards analysis of consumer culture. Fromm’s ideas are useful
here because they connect both consumer culture and ideas of self-transformation
that might be at the heart of education. Our presentation of marketised HE is
Teaching in Higher Education 279
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
consistent with Fromm’s suggestion that consumer society results in a dominant
mode of existence based on having. Such a mode prefers the possession of objects, ‘I
am more the more I have’ (1976, 5) and more significantly ‘mistakes’ verbs for nouns.
So students seek to have ideas, or skills as if they were possessions that can be
bought, rather than to know ideas as ways of seeing the world and skills as ways of
acting. Fromm might argue that an education cannot be had,butexperienced.
Articulating his concerns 30 years ago, ‘our education [system] tries to train people
to have knowledge as a possession, by and large commensurate with the amount of
property or social prestige they are likely to have in later life’ (1976, 34).
Our concerns are not new but it seems that since then HE has adopted with
increasing vigour, an orientation that has reduced a degree to an outlay that appears
to secure future material affluence rather than as an investment in the self.
Ultimately and publicly, the success of HE is now measured by the numbers of
students it attracts, by the number of graduates securing well-paid jobs, and by
research and consultancy revenue, prominently displayed in league tables used to
assist consumer choice (Naidoo and Jamieson 2005). The overriding criterion by
which we measure the value of HE is its contribution to the economy. This is what we
refer to as the neo-liberal university.
In many ways Fromm’s complaints about a having mode of living are the
established concerns of Marxism. For example, a desire to have reduces the
individual’s experience to a desire for something external a commodity. In doing
so, self-knowledge and a satisfaction in ones own practice is disallowed. The being
mode foregrounds understanding the self and the practice of skills may be hard
gained (see Fromm 1993). It is educationally pertinent that a having mode indulges
the belief that gain may comes without endeavour, ‘people are convinced that
everything, even the most difficult tasks, should be mastered without or with only
little effort’ (Fromm 1993, 25). Yet such an approach in education (and Fromm
explicitly uses education as an example) results in having a qualification without the
satisfaction derived from mastering skills or the associated potential for personal
change. More broadly the market ‘easily’ gratifies desires in financial exchanges, yet
as sociologists of consumption confirm (for example, see Campbell 1987), ‘satisfac-
tion in the market almost always results in new desires. Furthermore, commodities
are framed as ‘labour-saving’ so that ‘the good life is the effortless life’ (Fromm 1993,
26). Education as a commodity that can now be ‘bought’ is therefore reduced to just
one round of consumer desire in an endless series of consumption experiences.
Fromm (1993, 31) contrasts this with a being mode that promotes the ‘will’ to focus
on achievement and be committed to ‘one thing’. A consumer society diverts and
seduces in various ways but a being mode of living rejects such superficial pulls.
Fromm also notes however, that a having mode is necessary in order to maintain a
capitalist structure and political control of the masses. A being mode is also therefore
potentially emancipatory.
Captains of industry are likely to dismiss such arguments on the grounds that
having is a highly satisfying mode of living, especially if you are fortunate enough to
have much. Others highlight the structural nature of his dualism, pointing out that
you can both be in a state of having and have the peace of mind that comes from
being (Shankar and Fitchett 2002). We are acutely aware of Fromm’s idealism and
the inconsistency between the need to earn a living within a capitalist society based
on having and our call for an education for being. However, here we relate Fromm’s
280 M. Molesworth et al.
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
being mode of living to notions of ‘good’ education. Fromm’s work may also be
inherently elitist, idealist and essentialist: ‘optimal realisation of one’s species
nature ... is the goal of life’ he claims (Fromm 1976, 77). Yet we consider Fromm
in this context because of the marketisation of education that positions it as another
aspect of a problematic consumer culture.
Students and the having mode
Students have long experienced a tension between approaching learning with an
internal drive for self-development and the external requirement to have the right
amount and type of knowledge to operate in the market. The latter ‘instrumental’
approach may resonate with our understanding of students’ motivations to study
(Beaty, Gibbs, and Morgan 1997). We suspect that those students with a
predominant ‘vocational’ orientation perceive HE as a hurdle to jump on their
way to a career. Thus, in our vocational HEI, we witness something else that Fromm
(1976) notes: students submitting to an external authority in order to conform to
what they see as expected in society. In reducing their degree to preparation for their
first job, some students focus on assessment and on material they judge most
relevant in this quest. They expect the syllabus to grant access to their chosen
industry, so that teaching might merely extend the careers service (Pillay 2004).
Vocational programmes may even be seen as a commodity purchased in the hope of
gaining an advantage over others in future employment situations (for example see
Grosjean 2004). This is an implicit manifestation of what Fromm sees as a
‘marketing personality’ where personal attributes are acquired in order to success-
fully position the individual in a capitalist system. According to Beaty, Gibbs, and
Morgan (1997), a students orientation is both influenced by the campus environment
and influences the approach taken to study. Thus, a university subsumed within a
marketing discourse is likely to attract students with such an orientation, and the
campus environment may work intentionally or otherwise to encourage all students
to adopt this vocational motivation.
Beaty, Gibbs, and Morgan (1997) remind us that universities need to cater for
students motivated by an intrinsic interest in their subject, in scholarly development,
in the possibility of an emerging love of the subject. Thus it must provide space and
time for reflection and reinvention, and engage students who seek to be challenged
and changed as people. Marketisation undermines and weakens this role: for
vocational institutions particularly, it can be all too easily eradicated. Where there is
an explicit focus to satisfy a desire for job-related skills, efforts to address other
concerns may be dismissed by both the institution and the students. Indeed, some
students consider theory to be pointless. The possibility of understanding a subject
‘for its own sake’ is lost.
Many principles of best practice outlined in educational literature fail to take
account of the broader political context, currently dominated by neo-liberalism. As a
result, educationalists often make insufficient linkages between the discourse of
‘good education’, which is seen as objective and market discourses that we argue now
dominate the role of some HEIs that result in evaluations becoming more subjective.
‘Good’ education might be based on economic growth, ‘profitable’ HEIs and
satisfied student-consumers rather than, and regardless of, ideas of sound pedagogy.
Hence ‘good’ education may even be in critical opposition with both the pedagogic
Teaching in Higher Education 281
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
literature that privileges deep learning and with Fromm’s being mode of living. So it
is not merely that engendering deep approaches to learning may be discordant with
vocational students’ orientations to study, our concern is that the opportunity for an
‘education for being is being eliminated in some HEIs by the discourse of ‘good
business’, and that to many ‘good business’ and ‘good education’ are now
synonymous. For example, industry placements have become more popular (Naude´
and Ivy 1999) but contribute to the instrumentality of students’ approaches by
emphasising the acquisition of proficiencies in order to ‘hit the ground running’ in a
graduate’s first job. In confirming that the role of a degree is to get a job, a placement
undermines other potential aims for HE. The vocational tag is largely decoded as a
sales device: as the south coast institution’s internal propaganda puts it, ‘[the
institution] prides itself on its strong connections with the professions and the real
world’. The real world, it seems, is the commercial one and education that deals with
abstraction, critical thought and theory, is placed outside of a student’s ‘real life’. It
may be particularly ironic in the context of an agenda for lifelong learning that
learning is dismissed in this way by a vocational focus.
The desire to secure a professional job on graduation tends to increase the
importance attributed to assessment. Becker et al.’s US research in the 1960s found
students’ life at university was dominated by assessment demands even when this was
at odds with the espoused curriculum (Entwistle 1997). The ‘hidden’ curriculum of
this environment, the messages received by students implicitly but strongly about the
values of the institution and so-called ‘success’, obliterates sophisticated forms of
learning that we understand as indicators of a being orientation. Some students in
this study believed that attempting to ‘really’ learn something, being a learner, would
‘handicap you as far as getting a grade goes’ (Entwistle 1997, 147). Without
discussion between staff and students of what might constitute ‘success’ in the
academic environment, getting a degree by achieving a certain mark dominates, and
the tutor is at least complicit in allowing this to emerge and persist.
For Fromm then, an education system based on having recreates the subject to fit
closely into existing consumer culture. But the university experience can and should
offer a self-reflective space in which a student comes to challenge how we think and
live and in so doing becomes intellectually more complex.
Tutors and the having mode
Fromm’s (1976) claim that the path to a being mode of existence is best followed with
a guide, elevates the tutor from a simple ‘customer service’ role to the status of
mentor, who aims to help the student achieve this state of being (rather than give the
consumer skills and qualifications in an economic exchange). It is clear in the
educational literature that students’ behaviour is guided by the perceived demands
and messages of their teaching staff. Yet Entwistle (1997, 4) has noted that ‘much of
our current teaching and assessment seems to induce a passive, reproductive form of
learning which is contrary to the aims of the teachers themselves’. There appears to
be a ‘contradiction’ between the desires of lecturers, for example, to encourage deep
learning, and the actual achievements of the students (who are persistently
instrumental and assessment orientated) that invites tutors to seek ways to change
the way students learn and this is the focus of much pedagogic research. The
response to the increasing discrepancies between the tutor’s intentions and students’
282 M. Molesworth et al.
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
instrumental interactions, is often a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders, accepting it
as the inevitable outcome of new demands on the expanded sector.
But the marketisation of HE encourages the closure of this gap through changes
in the tutor rather than the student, by granting the student ‘sovereign consumer’
status. Fromm’s preferred role of the tutor as mentor has fallen out of line with the
market discourse of institutions and the socialised desires of the students. Being a
mentor might mean plenty of one-to-one contact, patience and open discussion, but
the market demands efficient teaching methods and consumer-students seek
maximum outcomes for minimal effort. This reconceptualisation complete with
appraisal via the National Student Survey presses academics into teaching rooted
in the having mode, where they reluctantly give students what they need to pass,
rather than encourage a reflective, critical, being orientation to the world. The
introduction of tuition fees may embed a view that staff have no right not to award
the consumer their purchase. And if low grades or high failure rates as published in
league tables translate into fewer applications, a direct link may be established
between high numbers of passes and the economic success of the institution, further
reducing difficult material and inflating academic policy that maximises pass rates.
For example, course regulations may allow for lower pass marks, more compensation
for failed work, more assessment resubmissions, and greater discretion in marginal
cases; all things that we have witnessed at our institution. Similar issues have been
reported this year (BBC 2008a; Gill 2008). Another report (Coughlan 2008b) claims
that overseas students are ‘buying’ masters degrees even from ‘top’ UK universities
without the necessary language and academic skills. The ideology of the market
justifies these practices by focusing on financial success. And if an institution does
not meet student expectations, then students will simply find another supplier who
will. Although some institutions may maintain a ‘premium’ position in the market,
for others this may cause a competitive urge to secure students and their fees through
increasing promises of high grades and easy workloads.
To maximise their connections with industry and reassure potential student
customers, marketised institutions may also recruit teaching staff directly from
industry the very market space that the institution now serves to further ensure
that industry relevant skills, rather than critical reflections, are the focus of delivery.
Again, Fromm raised concerns on such issues but Ron Barnetts work (1997, 2004)
for example, also highlights why students and now staff may reject the idea of
intellectual transformation. For Barnett, education should disturb human ‘being’ in
order to prepare students to cope and thrive in a world of increasing complexity. He
asserts that the task of education should be to question our existence and that the
transition towards a being mode can be an uncomfortable experience. Fromm implies
that a having mode of existence on the other hand, gives an illusion of security and
only a temporary sense of meaningfulness, that is ultimately empty and futile.
Tutors need to recognise the complexity of the mentoring process and it is
debatable whether industry experience is suitable preparation since it is rooted in the
having mode. Academic training based on being a scholar may be better preparation
for future mentoring, yet academics are increasingly invited to focus on a having
mode. They are not scholars, but ‘employees’ who have publications, an RAE score,
high ‘teaching scores’ and consultancy work. If they have enough, they receive better
job titles and performance-related pay. Our own institution’s strategic plan details
the necessity to have a certain percentage of staff with higher qualifications, contacts
Teaching in Higher Education 283
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
in industry and enterprise projects through competitive bidding. The critical voices
of academics that resist the totalising logic of the market are dismissed as idealistic
and impractical.
Vocational education and having and being
What does this mean for the new HE now being bought for £3000 a year? To have a
degree as a means to an economically prosperous end, positions the individual within
consumer discourse and reduces their freedom to engage in opportunities for
personal transformation. This restriction takes on the mantel of a common sense
‘taken-for-granted’ status: since students are attracted to vocational HE because it is
believed to act as a route into certain careers, why then would that institution put
effort into criticising these industries? It is not surprising then that students tend to
reject deep reflection of vocational subjects, especially those rooted in consumer
culture, such as public relations, marketing or advertising. A student that is
committed to such work (and the consumer lifestyle that is inherent in these
professions) may experience unpleasant dissonance where education facilitates
critical reflection on a consumer culture. So having obtained money from
consumer-students on the basis of a desire for an attractive job, a curriculum
must not undermine the ‘done deal’.
In addition, tutors in the having mode may be more protective of their specialist
knowledge as a ‘commodity’ to sell to students. Yet access to information afforded
by new technologies may now undermine the value of ‘possessing’ such knowledge.
For example, growth in projects like MITs OpenCourseWare makes critiquing,
connecting, and making sense of knowledge in order to use it creatively more
important than simply acquiring it, and this is more congruent with a being mode. So
as some sections of HE become more ‘fact-commodity’ focused the very value of
having facts is being reduced. If the value of facts is reduced and more critical and
complex learning is unattractive, what is left to be sold is the passport of the degree
certificate. In which case a paradox appears, marketised education is not even an
effective preparation for the workplace because it may not provide the imaginative
and critical graduates that are able to deal with technological and societal changes
(let alone instigate changes themselves).
There is potentially a bigger concern here. A consumer society must offer HE to
all who want to buy it, but society perhaps cannot afford (or darent risk) the sort of
transformational education that Fromm desires for all, at least not whilst broader
consumer interests also hold priority in society. So is the HE that results from this
weight of expectation and thinness of provision an ersatz offer? Can the majority of
students only be offered something akin to a market that allows all to dine out, but
for most this means fast food? Being offered a degree that largely involves rule
following in an environment devoid of uncertainty and intellectual angst might be
popular, but, to continue with the fast food analogy, such HE is not likely to be
nourishing for any of those involved.
It may be easy to criticise our concerns as a call for a return to a golden age of
education. But this is not quite our point. The tension between a having and a being
mode of education has long existed and has been persistently articled in pedagogic
research that calls for deeper learning. We may see it as part of the on-going historic
tensions revealed by Wittrock (1993), that universities as a collection of institutions
284 M. Molesworth et al.
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
are affected by the broader societal debates about their utility in terms of knowledge,
research, professionalisation and economic growth but crucially, that universities
participate and make a major contribution to that debate. Our concern is that once
HEIs are subsumed within the discourse of the market, their ability to comment is
reduced. Furthermore, we argue that the marketisation of HE, specifically in our
case though vocational degrees, has undermined the case for HE even to attempt to
transform students into a being orientation. The most desirable outcome of
vocational HE is now accepted (potentially by tutors, students and the management
of institutions) as the fulfilment of a having mode of living. Such an educational
ideology one that captures it within the market is potentially totalising. It may
stifle the potential for further debate because the criteria for evaluating the purpose
of HE becomes determined by the market. The role of a university is driven by
market desires rather than a negotiation with broader society.
A being orientation within education requires academic professionals to act as
sovereign but a market orientation a having mode must satisfy the desires of
student customers. Thus a marketised HE environment prevents those who have the
capacity to co-create a pedagogically sound experience from doing so. Markets
whose service personnel may persistently and deliberately ignore the most vocal
wants of their customers and then set them a difficult task that is neither desired nor
requested are considered failures. Incorporating marketing mechanics into HE thus
inevitably transforms pedagogic practice from being to having, from a learning
experience of challenge, risk and potential transformation to one where we mistake
such experiences as skills to acquire, ‘things’ to possess. Yet as Rothblatt (1993, 72)
concludes, one tradition of liberal education is to recognise that ‘we are greater than
the sum of our proficiencies’.
Fromm’s call for education that directs the individual away from the having of
consumer culture combined with the call of educationalists for HE to develop
critical and reflective thinkers consistent with a being orientation may be
fundamentally at odds with vocational HE. At its heart, the tension is between the
conception of HE as a financial investment and those who believe it ought to be
understood in terms of intellectual development. What would be the value of a
vocational degree in public relations, advertising, media production or leisure
management, that produced students who may become largely critical of the raison
d’eˆtre of the very industries that they are preparing to join? Such reflective students
might gain employment but perhaps their critical abilities would limit their ability to
do these jobs without angst about their value or the purpose of the commodities that
their salaries allow them to buy? Might an education for being produce individuals
who may come to see no worth in these industries? Might it result in their rejection of
many of the prevailing dominant norms of society? From this perspective we suspect
that our consumer society would never knowingly pay for a system that effectively
encouraged its deconstruction/reconstruction. Calls for a ‘good’ education therefore
fail to recognise that such education is at some fundamental levels at odds with our
consumer society, here articulated through using Fromm’s theory of having and being
modes of living. In this sense the expansion of HE has changed one of its core roles
for many new institutions, from a source of innovation and critique of existing
Teaching in Higher Education 285
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
culture and norms (albeit a rather elitist one in terms of access), to a source of
socialisation into existing culture and norms.
At one level this may represent only a minor concern revolving around the notion
of public accountability and the lack of transparency in the pedagogic provision of
some HEIs. Equally, this paper may be seen as simply highlighting how market-
isation is creating more divergence in the learning experience offered between various
sections of HE. More cynically, we suggest that the original role still exists in elite
HEIs, and that expansion of HE now simply masks this, whilst producing a more
confident and content mass who remain a willing workforce.
So we conclude with a question: can an expanded vocational HE system that is
set up for a having mode of living still fulfil the educational promise of personal
transformation? This is consistent with Shankar and Fitchett’s (2002, 513) call for
marketing for being, ‘Marketing efforts need to be geared towards helping consumers
achieve and maintain viable and rewarding states of being’. If this is true for
marketing in general, it is especially true for a marketised HE. Yet as Caru and Cova
(2003) point out, the experiential marketing approach that Shankar and Fitchett
propose for a ‘marketing for being contains a particularly narrow definition of
experience. More marketing theory applied to HE is probably not the answer.
Instead tutors must critically reflect on their role in maintaining education as
personal transformation and therefore resist the pressures from both managers and
students. A step towards this is to vocalise and theorise these concerns, as we do here,
but ultimately these concerns must be turned into action that resist the current
dominant discourse of the neo-liberal HEI. We recognise that deliberation on
practice is demanding and that many of the pressures currently being placed on those
who work in HE are to ‘work smarter’ nearly always a euphemism for market-
oriented efficiencies. The prime purpose of this paper has been to ask readers to
engage in the intellectual challenge of reflecting on the role of tutors, students and
managers within changing HE, using Fromm’s having and being thesis as illumina-
tion, and in doing so, we aim to reinstate other purposes especially the intellectual
transformation of the student within their practice.
Barnett, R. 1997. Higher education: A critical business. Buckingham, UK: SRHE.
Barnett, R. 2004. Realizing the university: In an age of supercomplexity. Buckingham, UK:
SRHE and Open University Press.
BBC News. 2008a. Blind eye turned on exam cheats.
7458286.stm (accessed June 19, 2008).
Beaty, E., G. Gibbs, and A. Morgan. 1997. Learning orientations and study contracts. In The
experience of learning, ed. F. Marton, D.J. Hounsell, and N.J. Entwistle, 2nd ed., 7288.
Edinburgh, UK: Scottish Academic Press.
Campbell, C. 1987. The romantic ethic and the spirit of modern consumerism. Oxford:
Caru, A., and B. Cova. 2003. Revisiting consumption experience: A more humble but
complete view of the concept. Marketing Theory 3, no. 2: 26786.
Coughlan, S. 2008b. Whistleblower warning on degrees. BBC News, June 17. http:// (accessed July 3, 2008).
Entwistle, N. 1997. Revision and the experience of understanding. In The experience of
learning, ed. F. Marton, D.J. Hounsell, and N.J. Entwistle, 2nd ed., 14558. Edinburgh, UK:
Scottish Academic Press.
286 M. Molesworth et al.
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
Ford, L. 2007. The penny drops: A master’s degree could catapult your career on to the next
level. The Guardian, 22 September.
Fromm, E. 1976. To have or to be?. London: Continuum.
Fromm, E. 1993. The art of being. London: Constable.
Gibbs, P. 2001. Higher education as a market: A problem or solution? Studies in Higher
Education 26, no. 1: 8594.
Gill, J. 2008. External examiners under pressure to uphold marks and avoid criticism. Times
Higher Education, June 26.
Grosjean, G. 2004. Co-op education: Access to benefits or benefits to access? In Student
affairs. Experiencing higher education, ed. L. Andres and F. Finlay, 14470. Vancouver, BC:
UBC Press.
Kewell, B., and M. Beeby. 2003. Student and lecturer responses to the introduction of
computer assisted learning (CAL) in a university business school. Teaching in Higher
Education 8, no. 3: 41330.
Lacey, H. 2006. Global pursuits. Education Guardian, 19 August.
Meikle, J. 2007. Business leaders could become school heads, report suggests. Guardian,18
Mills, M. 2007. Universities torn between two masters. Times Higher, 14 September.
Naidoo, R., and L. Jamieson. 2005. Empowering participants or corroding learning? Towards
a research agenda on the impact of student consumerism in higher education. Journal of
Education Policy 20, no. 3: 26781.
Naude´, P., and J. Ivy. 1999. The marketing strategies of universities in the United Kingdom.
The International Journal of Educational Management 13, no. 3: 12634.
Pillay, G. 2004. The transition from high school to post high school life. In Student affairs:
Experiencing higher education, ed. L. Andres and F. Finlay, 21743. Vancouver, BC: UBC
Potts, M. 2005. The consumerist subversion of education. Academic Questions 18, no. 3:
Rothblatt, S. 1993. The limbs of Osiris: Liberal education in the English-speaking world. In
The European and American university since 1908: Historical and sociological essays, ed.
S. Rothblatt and B. Wittrock, 1973. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shankar, A., and J. Fitchett. 2002. Having, being and consumption. Journal of Marketing
Management 18, no. 5: 50116.
UCAS. 2007. UCAS News, April. (ac-
cessed December 3, 2007).
Waghid, Y. 2006. Reclaiming freedom and friendship through postgraduate student super-
vision. Teaching in Higher Education 11, no. 4: 42739.
Wittrock, B. 1993. The modern university: The three transformations. In The European and
American university since 1908: Historical and sociological essays, ed. S. Rothblatt and
B. Wittrock, 30362. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Teaching in Higher Education 287
Downloaded by [University of Bath] at 08:18 15 February 2013
... Some researchers have suggested that a shift to more highly marketised systems, particularly those in which students pay fees, has had a direct impact on how the process of learning is understood by both students and staff. Molesworth et al (2009), examining developments in the UK, have argued that students have come to conceptualise learning in highly transactional terms -as a product to be bought, rather than a process that requires a considerable amount of effort on their part and that might, in places, be difficult and challenging. In such analyses, the previously dominant construction of student as learner is seen to have come under significant pressure through the reconfiguration of the HE sector along market lines. ...
... With respect to England, studies have illustrated how a raft of national HE policies position students as consumers, and HE as a commodity in which they will be willing to invest for personal gain (Naidoo and Williams, 2015;Brooks and Abrahams, 2018;Raaper, 2018). This is perceived as having had significant impact on student identities, pedagogical practices and relationships, curricula and learning outcomes (Molesworth et al, 2009;Nixon et al, 2010;Moutsios, 2013;Naidoo and Williams, 2015). An important theme in such studies is that students have come to see themselves as consumers and hence approach learning in an instrumental and passive manner. ...
... An important theme in such studies is that students have come to see themselves as consumers and hence approach learning in an instrumental and passive manner. For instance, according to Molesworth et al (2009), the marketisation of HE in England has meant a shift in the mode of existence of students from being a learner to having a degree, and, as a result, contemporary students are primarily focused on learning what they need in order to do well enough on assessments to get a degree and secure a 'professional' job, rather than being driven by a desire for subject mastery and self-transformation. Research on European HE systems beyond England has linked similar trends to the Bologna Process and the establishment of the European Higher Education Area, which have been discussed by a number of scholars as being underpinned by a neo-liberal agenda (Amaral, 2008;Dobbins, 2011). ...
Amid debates about the future of both higher education and Europeanisation, this book is the first full-length exploration of how Europe’s 35 million students are understood by key social actors across different nations. The various chapters compare and contrast conceptualisations in six nations, held by policymakers, higher education staff, media and students themselves. With an emphasis on students’ lived experiences, the authors provide new perspectives about how students are understood, and the extent to which European higher education is homogenising. They explore various prominent constructions of students – including as citizens, enthusiastic learners, future workers and objects of criticism.
... This marketisation of higher education is a growing phenomenon based on neo-liberalist ideology which currently exerts considerable pressure on higher institutions' structures and cultures globally (Ball 2007;Burch 2009), and can also negatively affect students' motivation and performance, usually in unintended ways (Ryan and Deci 2020). Molesworth, Nixon, and Scullion (2009) claim that particularly for technical universities a marketed higher education context may undermine and negatively impact students' intrinsic motivation as this context focuses explicitly on job-related skills. This may not have been demotivating for students who themselves identify as consumers within higher education, however, these students may already have lower levels of intrinsic motivation. ...
Full-text available
A number of key graduate outcomes related to industry-based interventions and work-industry-related activities (WIA's) are specified by the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance for all Engineering Degree Programmes. A paucity of research regarding student perceptions of these WIAs and their role in student's motivation for learning motivates the current study. Understanding student perceptions of WIA is critical to ensuring the effective integration of WIAs into engineering education. This study explores the perceived motivational effects of WIAs with which students engage through the lens of self-determination theory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nineteen master's students studying in two research-intensive Swedish universities. Six themes emerged from thematic analysis. The themes describe the impact WIAs can have on student motivation in terms of their perceptions of (1) relevance for the development of knowledge and skills, (2) influence on the student's future profession identity, (3) utility for gaining industrial experience, inclusive of research experience, (4) relevance to student's programmes of study, (5) industry marketisation agendas, and (6) alignment with industry needs over the student's own needs. The motivating and demotivating aspects of WIA's based on these themes are discussed to improve the collaboration between industry and academia in engineering education.
... Finally, perhaps in response to the consumer paradigm, or as a more nuanced recognition of the transformative role of education and therefore the central role of students as 'partners' in a negotiated process of learning (Harvey, 2006). The consumer approach separates the student from the process of their own education encouraging passivity (Molesworth et al, 2009). This counter-narrative of students as co-producers of their education does however recognise the role of the students and consumer narrative as a way of helping to overcome the power imbalances within an institution (McCulloch, 2009). ...
Students have been increasingly involved in university governance since the late 1960s. Since that time there have been competing paradigms about how students are seen, whether as consumers, service-users, stakeholders, democratic participants or as partners. Each of these paradigms has been used to justify increased involvement of students but with quite different expectations of how and why they are involving students. This study explores the factors of what makes effective student involvement in university governance. Student involvement in university governance has been widely researched but in most cases student involvement is considered in relation to one, or possibly two, of these paradigms but not all of them. This study identifies key gaps in the literature around the important role of university staff as gatekeepers; the extent to which committee structures consider how they engage students including how they address power differentials; as well as considering the perceptions of the effectiveness of the representatives themselves and the activities that they undertake. The study argues that the way in which students are seen in relation to key paradigms identified in the literature review impacts on how effective the processes are seen to be. The study is based primarily on perceptions of key stakeholders gathered through a national survey of university quality managers and students’ union course-rep co-ordinators. The study contributes to knowledge by conceptualising a theoretical framework within which to consider effective student involvement in university governance. The study develops a new theoretical framework on effective student involvement in university governance placing the key factors of effective student representatives, staff engagement and university committees within Ashraf and Kadir’s (2012) effectiveness model. This is then situated within a wider set of paradigms that emerge from the literature which highlighted the impact of how students are seen.
... A 'language as object' (Williams 2010) framing of English as the key attribute for graduates seeking work in the petroleum industry in Timor-Leste has important implications for how Prof. Lucio, Prof. Nuno, and their petroleum faculty colleagues conceptualise the nature of their work as tertiary educators. Succumbing to the 'marketisation' (Molesworth, Nixon, and Scullion 2009) of Timorese universities, the TTC petroleum faculty must align (if not compete) with select, English-focussed, on-the-job and formal training programmes provided by global petroleum companies as pathways to employment with them (ConocoPhillips 2019; Santos 2019). ...
Full-text available
In this paper I present a critical discussion of the ways that multilingualism is conceptualised in the context of higher education in Timor-Leste, a small, developing nation in South- East Asia. Drawing on a range of ethnographic data collected at multiple Timorese tertiary institutions from 2015 to 2018, I focus especially on the language-related beliefs and practices of a small group of petroleum studies lecturers, who are at the meeting point of diverse ideological forces that impact their teaching. I discuss their conceptualisations of both the ‘language problem’ facing them, and their own hybrid classroom communication practices, examining how these conceptualisations are shaped by wider political discourses favouring Portuguese, Indonesian and English. I argue that these discourses not only complicate due recognition of the considerable resourcefulness these lecturers display in communicating disciplinary knowledge to students, but also weigh heavily on their own perceptions of their everyday work as tertiary educators. Iha artigu ne’e ha’u aprezenta diskusaun krítiku kona-ba maneira hanoin ne’ebé relasiona ho multilingualizmu iha kontestu ensinu superiór iha Timor-Leste, nasaun ki’ik ida iha Aziátiku Sudeste ne’ebé dezenvolve nafatin. Ha’u uza dadus etnográfiku oioin ne’ebé rekolla iha instituisaun ensinu superiór Timor nian husi tinan 2015 to’o 2018, no foka liu ba fiar no hahalok kona-ba língua husi grupu ki’ik ida dosente nian iha área estudu petrolífera. Dosente hirak ne’e iha dalan-sanak ne’ebé iha forsa ideolójika bar-barak ne’ebé impaktu sira-nia hanorin. Ha’u diskute sira-nia maneira hanoin relasiona ho ‘problema língua’ ne’ebé mak sira enfrenta, no mós relasiona ho sira-nia maneira komunikasaun íbrida rasik iha klase laran. Ha’u mós analiza oinsá diskursu polítiku boot sira ne’ebé favorese Portugés, lian Indonézia ho Inglés forma dosente nia maneira hanoin ne’e. Ha’u hato’o argumentu katak diskursu hirak ne’e difikulta ema nia abilidade atu konsidera matenek ne’ebé dosente sira ne’e hatudu kuandu uza rekursu oioin hodi komunika koñesimentu disiplinaria ba estudante sira. Diskursu kona-ba língua ne’e mós lori impaktu todan ba dosente sira nia persepsaun rasik kona-ba sira-nia servisu lor-loron nu’udar manorin universitária.
Student engagement in medical education is progressing beyond passive participation in instructional activities toward embracing student empowerment that will develop independent and engaged healthcare professionals. This book chapter reorients the current understanding of student engagement by reviewing the importance of an institutional culture of empowerment and students as partners. We will provide concrete examples of groundbreaking leadership in student autonomy and empowerment undertaken at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU SOM), a recipient of the ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award in Student Engagement and the ASPIRE Stella Award Winner (The ASPIRE Stella Award is to recognize commitment to excellence in various areas. SIUSOM has received ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award in curriculum development, assessment, social accountability, simulation, as well as student engagement.) from the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE). The coachability curriculum is a student-developed curriculum addition of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Some year 4 students choose to teach our year 1 students as tutors in problem-based learning (PBL). A reformed clerkship curriculum has abandoned shelf exams and instead focuses on clinical immersion and each student’s personalized education plans based on their educational needs. Programmatic assessment has been instituted that includes a progression committee that values and integrates student-adviser discussions and remediation plans. A recent initiative has developed an educational data dashboard system to embrace the institutional culture of student empowerment through transparency. The chapter concludes with ideas to facilitate an institutional culture of student empowerment.
The compensation received by UK Vice Chancellors (VCs) has been on an upward trend in recent years and attracted a lot of negative media attention. In this paper, we examine whether VCs receive the compensation they deserve. Using a panel dataset covering the academic years 2007/2008 to 2018/2019, we develop a model to predict expected VC compensation to determine whether VCs are over- or undercompensated. Our model finds that VCs are not overcompensated regarding their base salary, but some are overcompensated in terms of their benefits and pension contributions. However, there is very little difference in terms of characteristics of over- and undercompensated VCs, indicating that on average, UK VCs receive the compensation they deserve. For robustness purposes, we employ a variety of alternative model specifications and subsamples which all support our previous findings.
We are at a moment of growing critical self-reflection in the field of development studies—heightened by debates on decolonization—that is opening up difficult conversations on teaching, learning and knowledge production for development studies education. This special issue augments these conversations and revisits development studies education within the context of the ‘neoliberal university’. It is our contention that we cannot engage with the expansive project of rethinking development studies education, without elaborating on higher education institutions (HEIs) as the site where change is mediated, managed and resourced. The articles in this volume give empirically grounded and interrelated narratives that elucidate the relationships between development studies and the neoliberal university from a range of disciplinary and geographical perspectives. They allow us to make two salient contributions, firstly, on the role of HEIs as a site of engagement and entanglement between development practice and development studies, and secondly, on the ways in which the neoliberalization of higher education shapes development studies pedagogy. It is our hope that these articles are read as a timely intervention and invitation to rethink development studies education in this context.
The university is not only faced with a world of supercomplexity but it has itself contributed to this situation. This is a world in which our very frames of understanding, action and self-identity are all continually challenged. What is the place and role of the university in such a world? It is that of living by the uncertainty principle: it has to generate uncertainty, to help us live with uncertainty and even to revel in our uncertainty.
This paper comprehensively reviews the CAL literature before reporting on a study of student and lecturer take-up of the Learning Resource Web (LRW), within the Bristol Business School. The study was multimethod, incorporating a survey of student expectations (n=394) and qualitative interviews with teaching staff (n=12). The LRW initially supported teaching in the sciences. Its implementation in the Business School raised questions about the support it might offer for active and experiential pedagogies. Lecturers tended to use the LRW as an aid to course management, but also saw it as a catalyst for pedagogic change and, in particular, the development of independent learning skills amongst undergraduates. By contrast, students welcomed the system because it appeared to provide a learning safety-net. The study highlights tentative signs that, because of this, the introduction of the LRW may be promoting the instrumentality and dependence on exposition that lecturers often seek to counteract.
Postgraduate student supervision at the level of doctoral and masters studies can be enjoyable, frustrating and demanding. In this article I identify some of the challenging moments in postgraduate student supervision I have encountered over the past few years, focusing on the notion of learning as understood by some students. My contention, based on my interactions with doctoral and masters candidates,1 is that learning is understood by students as something that can at best be associated with a consumer and market-oriented ‘logic’, but that this conception of learning works against what ought to constitute ‘authentic’ learning. Hence, I argue for higher levels of freedom and friendship to become more prevalent in postgraduate student supervision in order to cultivate a culture of ‘authentic’ learning different from one that advocates a consumer, market-driven ‘logic’.
The paper seeks to link the structural and the institutional to learning outcomes in order to articulate a research agenda capable of evaluating the impact of consumerism on learning and teaching in higher education. Consumerist mechanisms are situated in the context of quasi‐market and new managerial regulatory frameworks and concepts developed by Pierre Bourdieu are drawn on to establish a theoretical model of the uneven impact of consumerism across different types of universities. Empirical studies, conducted in a variety of national settings, are outlined to confirm the plausibility of the model. The possible interactions between first, changes in academic identity, teaching and the curriculum; and secondly, on student identities and their impact on teaching and assessment and their consequent learning outcomes, are outlined. Some important questions about the consequences for the labour market are also raised. The paper hypothesizes that attempts to restructure pedagogical cultures and identities to comply with consumerist frameworks may unintentionally deter innovation, promote passive and instrumental attitudes to learning, threaten academic standards and further entrench academic privilege. The paper concludes by outlining key areas that require investigation in order to address some of the problems posed by consumerism in a mass higher education system.
This article considers notions of the market in UK higher education. It is argued that the economic market commoditises higher education as the accreditations earned at higher education institutions. The author suggests that, if this is the consequence of the market, then the notion is inadequate to represent the achievements of higher level learners. In its place the author conceives of a mechanism that is built on higher education being a conversation by respectful and involved colleagues, who seek to develop educational relationships rather than transactional deals between traders.