Students as customers

In a newly published article in the New York Times, the theme "should students be considered customers?" was debated. The article relates to Business degrees first and foremost, but it has several points that are most interesting for other educations as well. Are there benefits to thinking of the students as a costumer? What would such a line of thinking do to the courses offered? Why do people young and old, actually attend the university?

Is the post-office a good inspiration for universities?

The basis for the debatewas an article in the Chicago Tribune. The article asked weather or not the "customer" or the student should, as a buyer of a product, have more to say about what went on at the university. In the debate in the debate i New York Times several prominent professors and university presidents give their opinion on why or indeed if one should consider students customers.

The debating panel was split on weather or not customer was a fitting comparison. Some thought it was, some thought it quite inappropriate, some thought that it was a simple necessity when confronted with cut-backs as a result of the financial crisis. Mark C. Taylor from Colombia University makes an interesting point regarding just that:

"[T]he only income [Universities] generate comes from tuition. But increased enrollments result in more income only when students can pay their own way. With less money available for financial aid, there is growing pressure to admit students who can afford the full sticker price for their education even if they are not the most highly qualified".

One can infer from this that tuition fees, especially combined with low government funding, results in less than adequate student, as it is those that can pay that will be prioritized. He still stand squarely behind the notion of students as a customer though, if nothing else, then by sheer necessity, as there are (at least in the U.S.A) no other means of financing.

Another just as good point is from Stephen Joel Trachtenburg who gave a "definite maybe" on the issue of customer or not. He replied as follows:

"Students are looking for a quality education, and they want distinguished and accomplished professors on the faculty. But that alone is not sufficient. The research that is done by faculty enhances the education provided, and expands the discipline and the scholarly foundation of the school. This serves both to add value to the students’ academic experience, and to burnish the reputation of the institution. But professors must teach their material in compelling and informative ways. The capacity for communication is critical."

This is, for those of you that know the policies of the Student Parliament, a blueprint of what we consider important in education. Not only do we expect professors that are of international standards, but we consider research-based education, and not the least: professors and academic staff that are skilled in communications of that knowledge.

On the last end of the scale, we find professor Edvard E. Snyder from the University of Chigano Booth School of Business. He does not want to hear of students as "customers":

"Even in settings where engaged customers interact with companies to influence the value and nature of what they consume, sellers don’t set demanding expectations of customers and partner with them on strategic initiatives.[...] The best students don’t view themselves as customers, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. "

Should students be treated as customers or are they something completely different? What rights and duties comes with being a customers? Do we lack the language of understanding ourtselves outside the realm of "the market"?

Discuss the this and the article below!

By Kim Orlin Kantardjiev
Published Jan. 4, 2010 3:15 PM - Last modified Nov. 13, 2013 12:49 PM
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