Who cares? Exploring the dichotomy between customer care and care of the learner in UK higher education

Roed, Jannie (2015) Who cares? Exploring the dichotomy between customer care and care of the learner in UK higher education. ICERI Conference Proceedings 2015. ISSN 2340-1095

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This paper seeks to re-position academic practitioners as educators rather than service providers, and in doing so also re-position students as learners, rather than customers. In making this conceptual shift the authors are exploring an aspect of personal ethics in relation to academic practice – something which is often neglected in the literature.

In recent years, narratives on UK Higher Education (HE) have been much focused on the marketisation of Higher Education (HE) and the shift towards viewing students as consumers or customers (Molesworth and Scullian 2010; Brown and Carasso 2013). Viewing students as customers has great implications for academic identity and practice. In this scenario, lecturers are no longer predominately educators. Instead, they represent a service industry where customer satisfaction overrides learning. Williams (2003) argues that one result of the marketisation of Higher Education is that as universities compete to recruit students, they seek to promote products (courses) that are marketable, and that includes a focus on customer care. Universities promise that students will be cared for and well looked after, and this, needless to say, appeals to parents who are often the ones paying tuition fees. However, when Williams (2003) interviewed students about their identity as consumers, she found that far from all students approved of that label. In fact, she indicates that the student population seems to have a more sophisticated response to the marketisation discourse than is usually reported in the literature.

Noddings (2003) describes education as a process where the learner and teacher enter into a unique relationship with the purpose of promoting the well-being of the learner. She argues that teaching is not only about professional but also personal responsibilities, and lists three key elements of caring education: engrossment, commitment and a motivational shift from self (as a teacher) to the student. Engrossment is when a teacher fully accepts the student and understands and respects feelings and experiences that s/he brings to the learning. Commitment is the teacher’s single minded goal to support the student in performing to the best of their abilities. Finally, the motivational shift is when a teacher is able to see the world from the students’ point of view. The authors explore the extent to which we as academic practitioners are enabled by our HE institutions to provide caring education in the form that Noddings suggest.

This paper applies Noddings’ concept of care in education to an HE context and explores the extent to which a group of early career academics negotiate concepts of care – customer care and care for the learner – in their academic practice.

The study is based on in-depth interviews of 10 early career academics who recently completed their Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice at a post-92 university in London. The interviews are focused on the three key aspects mentioned above that constitute cared for education, and the paper will discuss the early career academics’ perceptions of caring for students and the extent to which they are supported by their institution in providing appropriate care for their learners.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: care, academic practice, he, ethics, professional development, early career academics.
Subjects: Education > Academic cultures
Education > Higher education
Depositing User: Jannie Roed
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2016 09:59
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 15:51
URI: https://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/2938

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