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Generational Encounters with Higher EducationThe Academic-Student Relationship and the University Experience$
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Jennie Bristow, Sarah Cant, and Anwesa Chatterjee

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781529209778

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529209778.001.0001

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The Rise of Student Choice, and the Decline of Academic Autonomy

The Rise of Student Choice, and the Decline of Academic Autonomy

(p.23) 2 The Rise of Student Choice, and the Decline of Academic Autonomy
Generational Encounters with Higher Education

Jennie Bristow

Sarah Cant

Anwesa Chatterjee

Policy Press

This chapter critically evaluates the balance between compulsion and choice in contemporary narratives around the University, as scripted by policy documents and critiqued in the literature. Specifically, it analyses the cultural script of the ‘student- as- consumer’, and its impact on the academic– student relationship. For young people making the decision about whether to go to University, where to go, and what to study, the process is replete with choices – reflecting the landscape laid out in the 2010 Browne Report, which presented the increase in tuition fees as enabling students to benefit from an enhanced range of choices offered by a competitive marketplace. Yet, the study reveals that this choice is limited to decisions about where to go to university rather than deeper considerations about whether to proceed to Higher Education. This reflects tensions within the logics of massification, marketisation and politicisation. The analysis reveals an iterative reconfiguration of the purpose of Higher Education, through the augmentation of the ‘student- as- consumer’ and the gradual disappearance of the academic as central to the work of the University. As such, the chapter argues that deprofessionalisation and waning autonomy are not unintended consequences of policy developments, but critical prerequisites for the situation of Higher Education as the expected next step for increasing proportions of school leavers.

Keywords:   Policy, massification, marketisation, ’student-as-consumer’, Robbins, Browne, Dearing, deprofessionalisation, widening participation, employability

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