Students' unions attempts to oppose consumerism are rarely successful, new research finds

June 15, 2015

A new study, published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, has found that while students' unions often try to oppose the rise of consumerism at their universities, they are rarely successful.

The team of researchers at the University of Surrey arranged various focus groups at 10 higher education institutions, with both students' union leaders and university managers. They found that the nature of relationships between unions and their university often makes it difficult for students' unions to reject consumerism - either because they have little independence to develop their own agenda due to financial dependence on their institution, or because they are dependent on their own consumer activities (e.g. bars, clubs and shops) to retain some independent income.

In recent years, government policy and the media have seen students increasingly positioned as consumers. Various higher education reforms have been based on the assumption that students will actively 'shop around', comparing institutions and courses to secure the best possible education.

"Indeed it is this form of 'educational choice' that has been seen by politicians as an important mechanism for promoting competition between institutions and, consequently, for raising standards," said lead author Professor Rachel Brooks from the University of Surrey.

"However, the National Union of Students has tried to develop an alternative political agenda, which rejects a consumerist approach to education. Anti-consumerist positions have also been taken up within individual students' unions.

"Our study found that though that this approach has not been successful. The irony for students' unions is that one of the main means of retaining independence and being able to resist consumerist agendas, is by embracing commercialism and providing services to paying students," added Professor Brooks.
-end-


University of Surrey

Related Education Articles from Brightsurf:

Applying artificial intelligence to science education
A new review published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching highlights the potential of machine learning--a subset of artificial intelligence--in science education.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

How can education researchers support education and public health and institutions during COVID-19?
As education researchers' ongoing work is interrupted by school closures, what can they do to support education and public health institutions dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic?

Online education platforms could scale high-quality STEM education for universities
Online and blended (online and in-person) STEM instruction can produce the same learning outcomes for students as traditional, in-person classes at a fraction of the cost, finds research published today in Science Advances.

Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.

The new racial disparity in special education
Racial disparity in special education is growing, and it's more complex than previously thought.

Education may be key to a healthier, wealthier US
A first-of-its-kind study estimate the economic value of education for better health and longevity.

How education may stave off cognitive decline
Prefrontal brain regions linked to higher educational attainment are characterized by increased expression of genes involved in neurotransmission and immunity, finds a study of healthy older adults published in JNeurosci.

Does more education stem political violence?
In a study released online today in Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, three Norwegian researchers attempt to bring clarity to this question by undertaking the first systematic examination of quantitative research on this topic.

Individual education programs not being used as intended in special education
Gone are the days when students with disabilities were placed in a separate classroom, or even in a completely different part of the school.

Read More: Education News and Education Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.