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      The cost of a Higher Education - Tuesday 20 November, 6:45pm start in Manchester

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      November 20, 2012

      Tuesday   6:45 PM - 8:15 PM

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      The cost of a Higher Education - Tuesday 20 November, 6:45pm start

      Learning to pay for an educationTuesday 20 November, 6:45pm start Joanna Williams and Paul Taylor will introduce a discussion on the costs of a higher education

      From September 2012, university students in England are expected to pay up to £9000 a year in tuition fees. But the concept of the ‘student-as-consumer’ pre-dates these most recent fee-increases which have only enhanced the perception that students are consumers of an increasingly marketised university system. The cultural shift in how students consider themselves in relation to their studies and how they are perceived by others in society has been taking place for at least a decade. Even before the introduction of tuition fees directly paid by students, potential entrants to HE were often encouraged by teachers, parents and university marketing departments to seek out the best ‘product’.

       

      In the popular media, fee-paying is sometimes presented as a generally good development in that it gives students greater ‘rights’ and the power to hold universities to account if the service they are offered doesn’t come up to scratch. Indeed, one reason for the government endorsement of tuition fees was the idea that a market in HE would help to drive up standards as institutions would have to get better at responding to customer demands.

       

      There has also been much criticism of tuition fees with widely-reported student protests occurring in the winter of 2010/11. Such demonstrations could be interpreted as indicating students’ rejection of the assumption that they are customers. However indicating one’s unhappiness with fee-paying is not always the same as rejecting consumerist attitudes. Indeed, the opposite may be the case, and unhappiness with the level of fees may actually represent the mainstream adoption of a consumerist attitude.

       

      Many protesters argued that HE, as a prerequisite for employability and social mobility, was a ‘right’, and that in making students pay more money they were being denied this entitlement. When presented in this way, HE is still perceived of as an investment product, it is just demanded that the product be made available to more of the population, at a cheaper price or better quality.

       

      Yet despite the contradictions and uncertainties surrounding current debates about students and universities, there are some surprising points of agreement. Student protesters, academics, politicians and commentators all appear to agree that HE is essential for employability and is therefore a prerequisite for social mobility and social justice. Such social and economic goals mean that education is far less likely nowadays to be linked to a moral or intellectual vision of truth, enlightenment, knowledge or understanding. Given the paucity of intellectual purpose, students are perhaps left with few models with which to identify other than that of the consumer.

       Some background readings

      Power Struggle: Who said students today were apathetic? by Paul Redmond, The Guardian 6 January 2009

      Why are students complaining so much, and do they have a case? by Richard Garner, The Independent 20 May 2009

      Now is the age of the discontented, by Frank Furedi, Times Higher Education 4 June 2009

      Browne’s Gamble, by Stefan Collini, London Review of Books 4 November 2010

      Toytown Trots, Twitter and  the Trumpton Riots, Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail 12 November 2010

      Student protests: today is our 1968 moment, by Michael Chessum, The Guardian 9 December 2010

      The Wal-Mart ethos attracts few buyers among US lecturers, by Jon Marcus, Times Higher Education 27 January 2011

      A. C. Grayling's Private University is Odious, by Terry Eagleton, The Guardian 6 June 2011

      Students to get best buy facts and consumer rights, by Sean Coughlan, BBC News 24 June 2011

      The university: still dead, by Angus Kennedy, spiked May 2012

       Venue and Time

      In the discussion area of Blackwell University Bookshop, The Precinct, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RN. Please arrive around 6:30pm for drinks and nibbles, ready for a prompt 6:45pm start - expected to finish just after 8:15pm.

       

      Tickets are £5 (£3 concessions) bookable in advance, which entitles you to a £3 discount for anything bought from the bookshop on the evening. Buy in-store or by phone from Blackwell University Bookshop, Manchester 0161 274 3331.

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