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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School

Research project: The impact of marketization on student attitudes and approaches to higher education

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This Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded study investigated how the shifting policy landscape, particularly in relation to fee increases, has affected students’ approaches and attitudes to higher education. This research was commissioned soon after the Browne Review on higher Education (DBIS, 2011) and the trebling of tuition fees to 9k. 

The study was based on a cross-national and cross-institutional qualitative study, involving interviews and focus groups with over 60 undergraduate students across a range of Higher Education Institutions in the UK. The study intended to broaden our understanding of how contemporary students approach higher education, including their attitudes and motivations towards formal learning in higher education and expectations of higher education. This research aimed to explore the extent to which new market frameworks and students’ increased financial contributions may have affected their approaches and attitudes to learning and have potentially redefined how they think of themselves as students; in particular the extent to which they may identify with more consumerist approaches or otherwise. The findings indicated many pressure points are experienced by contemporary students around maximising the value and return of their higher education. It found that whist HE was framed an investment and private good, there was a mixed and often nuanced set of constructions over the notion of consuming higher education.

Related outputs

Tomlinson, M. (2017) ‘Student perceptions of themselves as ‘consumers’ of higher education’, British Journal of Sociology of Education (in press).

Tomlinson, M. (2016) ‘The Impact of Market-Driven Policy on Student-University Relations: Investing, Consuming, Competing’, Higher Education Policy, 29, 2: 149-166.

Tomlinson, M. (2015) Between Instrumental and Developmental Learning: ambivalence in student values and identity positions in marketized UK higher education, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 34, 5: 569-588

Tomlinson, M. (2014) Exploring the impact of policy changes on student attitudes and approaches to learning in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

Related research groups

The Centre for Educational Policy
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