Is the Student the Only Customer of Higher Education? Plus Related Sources


Full Title (and Direct Link If Available)



Quotations or Summary of Content

Are Students the True Customers of Higher Education? (Abstract plus portal to the full text for members of the American Society for Quality)


Quality Progress, Vol. 29 No. 10; author Mete Sirvanci

From the abstract: “Whether students are customers depends on their roles. Clarifying these roles will help institutions of higher education improve customer focus and the implementation of total quality management.… Students are not typical customers in that students must satisfy admission standards and course evaluations before they consume the academic product, the cost of which is subsidized by others, especially taxpayers and parents. Students play the role of raw material in the production analogy of education. Customers of this production are employers and society, while employment and salary data become measures of institutional performance. As consumers of nonacademic services, such as food services, students are internal customers. They are also internal customers of the course material delivered by instructors. As participants in each course's learning process, students are laborers, and their instructors are quality inspectors.”

Are Students "Customers" of Collegiate Education? (Overview plus ERIC portal to the full text)


Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Academy of Science (75th, Savannah, GA); author John V. Aliff

Covers TQM and its benefits and possible negatives if there is “an authoritarian misapplication of the TQM vision. In a true application of TQM, colleges would become communities of learners, with all members of that community committed to furthering the learning process. Contains 26 references."

Putting the Customer First in College: Why We Need an Office of Consumer Protection in Higher Education


Center for American Progress; author Louis Soares

“there is only one real customer—the individual who chooses to pursue an education”

Are They Students? Or ‘Customers’?




New York Times Opinion Pages – Room for Debate

“A recent article in The Chicago Tribune described a continuing debate in business schools over whether their enrollees should be regarded as “customers” rather than as traditional students. Should the students have more say over what they are taught and even how they are judged? What’s the risk of the student-consumer approach in M.B.A. programs? And does the issue reflect broader issues in higher education?


The closest link to the “recent article” in The Chicago Tribune” seems to be]

Patricia Kilday Hart: Perry pal pressing his 'seven solutions'


Houston Chronicle Commentary; author Patricia Kilday Hart

Gives background on Jeff Sandefer, “a successful oil and gas investor, former UT adjunct business professor, director of a private business graduate school - and architect of Gov. Rick Perry's initiative to shake up Texas higher education. After a falling-out with the UT administration in 2002, Sandefer developed what he calls "Seven Break-through Solutions" to make higher education more cost-effective, mostly by placing less emphasis on research.”


Provides examples on the value of research beyond its immediate profit, including this example: “Dr. Kenneth Ashworth, the state's former commissioner of higher education, recalls UT scientists being mocked for studying the sex lives of screw worm flies. Such trivia! But their finding became the key to resolving a screw worm epidemic that nearly destroyed the entire Texas cattle industry in the 1960s.”

‘Seven solutions’ draws new rebuttal
UT report calls ideas to boost higher education simplistic



Houston Chronicle; author Jeannie Kever

Gives background back to 2008 and provides an overview of the groups involved, including proponents such as the national group Center for American Progress and the Texas group Texas Public Policy Foundation. It provides concerns raised in the University of Texas report.


Gives quotations, including:

  • From David Guenther, “a spokesman for the Texas Public Policy Foundation”:
    If students aren't the customers of the university, who are?”
  • From the University of Texas report, saying the “seven solutions”
    “over-emphasize the student's role as a 'customer' at the expense of the more vital role of 'learner.' … The higher education experience is not akin to shopping on iTunes or visiting Banana Republic."



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