Framework's consumer vision 'mistaken'

November 26, 2009

The Government made a "fundamental mistake" in its plan for the future of higher education by painting a picture of a consumer-driven student experience, the head of the Higher Education Academy has warned.

In a speech last week, Paul Ramsden, chief executive of the HEA, criticised the language used in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' framework document, published earlier this month, which calls for a "consumer revolution" for students.

"This is the language of those who think they know what's best for the people they serve," said Professor Ramsden, who was speaking at a 1994 Group conference on the student experience in London.

"Students are not passive consumers, searching for 'satisfaction'. They are active partners in a relationship," he said.

While praising plans to provide students with better information about what they can expect from higher education, he warned that the framework document contained "inherent dangers" because critical thinking was not possible if students "expect everything to be handed to (them) on a plate".

His comments came as the National Union of Students and HSBC bank published the findings from a poll on contact hours and feedback.

The survey of 1,200 students finds that two thirds see their personal tutor less than once a term. More than 20 per cent say they have to wait five or more weeks to receive feedback.

The majority of students (76 per cent) think the number of contact hours they receive is appropriate. But when asked what would most improve the quality of teaching and learning at their university, more contact time is the most popular response.

Most students (80 per cent) say feedback on their work from academics makes it clear how they have performed, but only 60 per cent say it clarifies how they could improve their work.

Only a quarter of students receive one-to-one verbal feedback on coursework, but 66 per cent think this would be useful.

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