Signs and signals

July 27, 2007

The articles regarding the relationship that exists between students and their university ("Move to curb student rights", "NUS alarmed by one-sided student contract", July 13) raise many questions. The semiotics of the relationship are crucial - the way people communicate and the messages they receive do tend to reinforce their views.

Are students customers? Yes, they pay money for a variety of services. Are students consumers? No, they should not be because they need to be active participants in the whole process (the Ruth Deech "gym" analogy). Should a new contract be needed? Well, a simplified, clear Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract-compliant contract would be welcome.

Will what is apparently being considered be fit for purpose? It would seem not. Should the courts be faced with more work? No, mediation has a large role to play.

Tim Birtwistle
Professor of the law and policy of higher education
Leeds Law School, Leeds Met

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