Instrumentalist discord

January 24, 2013

Mary Evans’ review misses the point and importance of Joanna Williams’ Consuming Higher Education: Why Learning Can’t Be Bought (Books, 17 January).

While the Left and the students’ unions have argued against university fees, they have applauded the emphasis of successive governments on the “student experience” and the academy’s role in social inclusion and employability. Williams reverses this: it is the redefinition of education as a means to these various non-educational ends that is the problem.

Handing over money to study is only a symptom of regarding education in instrumentalist terms - if it can be packaged up and “delivered” as “learning outcomes and experiences”, then why not marketise it?

We can buy an experience but, as Williams points out, while we might pay for a place at university, learning cannot be bought.

Jim Butcher, Canterbury Christ Church University

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