Monday, August 22, 2005


Student complaints are rising in Britain, and faculty don't like it, says the Times (UK) Education Supplement.
Universities have been swamped by more than 20,000 complaints and exam appeals in the past three years as students assert their consumer rights in increasing numbers, figures released to The Times Higher reveal.

Hundreds of complaints were made about erroneous exam papers, inadequate facilities and cancelled classes. More unusual grievances include a formal complaint about a "dog in a classroom", concerns about an increase in the price of a cappuccino at a cafe, and accusations that an allegedly drunken drama tutor awarded higher marks to performances that included "sexual content".

Government officials and student leaders welcomed the findings as a sign that tuition fee-paying students were standing up for their rights.

But lecturers' union Natfhe warned that an unwelcome "commodification" of higher education was leading to a complaints culture that was diverting time and resources away from teaching and research while putting intolerable pressure on lecturers faced with often spurious allegations.

About a third of these appeals are found to have merit. Most of them are over grades. One concern expressed is that administrators are encouraging them. I got this link from an administrator here, who indicated she found the documentation "interesting". I think that the reason faculty don't like this "customer" model of students is that it paints them as service-providers and not the great fonts of genius they see themselves as. For example,
Kat Fletcher, the president of the National Union of Students, said: "With a funding system that increasingly views a degree as a commodity, it is hardly surprising that students are starting to view themselves as consumers."
I don't quite get the connection to the funding system, but there's little question that the consumer mentality and the decline in status of the professoriate are related. And given the faculty's desire to make education "more democratic", I don't understand why they're complaining.