http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/icons/worldwise-nameplate.gifThis is a guest post by John Lea, a principal lecturer in education at Canterbury Christ Church University, in Britain, and author of Political Correctness and Higher Education: British and American Perspectives (Taylor & Francis, 2009). John Cleese once said that the main difference between Britain and the United States was that Americans understood customer service. This difference was behind the creation of his classic character, Basil Fawlty. Of course, believing that the customer is always right and keeping the customer satisfied are not straightforward matters, particularly when that customer is a student. The idea of the student as a customer has been given new impetus in Britain by a government push toward an American-style marketization of higher education. In September, the first students arrived on campus who will be expected to pay (in many cases) the full possible cost of their university education—up to 9,000 pounds per year (roughly $14,000).
However, the consumerist trend in Britain has been under way for some time, most noticeably in the increased attention being given to the National Student Survey (NSS) in the past five years. Unlike in the United States, where colleges can choose to take part in similar surveys, the NSS is required and is fast becoming a significant surveillance stick with which the British government can hit underperforming universities. More...