Consuming passion

December 21, 2007

Frank Furedi mistakes the 1994 Group's willingness to discuss and debate the growing effects of market forces in the sector as a "proposal to treat undergraduates as consumers" (Opinion, December 14). This is unfortunate, as our policy report makes clear that such a notion is unhealthy for all involved, particularly for the student.

The claim that the 1994 Group promotes the idea of students as consumers is simply not true. Rather, there is a realisation that such attitudes are increasing alongside the new fees system, and there is a clear call for the sector to temper these attitudes with a partnership approach, involving students themselves as much as possible in the debate. The report clearly recognises that students are far more than merely consumers and emphasises that the rise of consumerist approaches must be played down as much as possible.

Furedi seems to read the policy report as holding out as its central point a quasi-commercial contract between student and institution. This is an unfortunate exaggeration of the group's simple recognition that students expect to get what they are paying for in terms of a quality education and quality facilities.

It is also unfortunate that Furedi presumes that a move to a more modern approach to the provision of higher education would cause lecturers to cease to behave professionally and stop doing what they think is right for the student. From the day-to-day approach and attitude of our own staff, we can see no evidence of this happening now or in the future.

Steve Smith, Chair, 1994 Group, and vice-chancellor, Exeter University.

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