Accepted Paper:

International students, consumption and marketing in higher education: student responses in the UK  


Katherine Nielsen (Sussex University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an ethnography of marketisation and the development of strategic plans and institutional reforms to increase international students, and student responses to these reforms. The paper will then examine how a student protest movement developed in response to the proposed reforms.

Paper long abstract:

The Bologna Process in Europe has created a climate of greater academic mobility for students. While providing short and long term benefits to students, institutions are engaged in complete administrative restructuring which aims to capitalise on student mobility by attracting international students. Such reforms include curricular adaptation to perceived international student demands and the development of focused marketing campaigns to attract desirable international students. This paper will use the anthropology of tourism to interrogate institutional reforms debated at the University of Sussex which explicitly sought to increase international student enrolment and a counter movement organised by students, Sussex Not 4 Sale, which sought greater input into these reforms. At the centre of this controversy were the marketisation of higher education and the growing interpretation of students as consumers. By conceptualising student mobility as a form of educational tourism, institutions hope to maximise the opportunity to increase their sources of funding. Educational tourism is shown to be a key marketing goal of the reforms at the University of Sussex, where international students pay the full cost of their education and may have different academic needs or goals from British students. This ethnography allows for a close examination of how institutional reform is overtly undertaken in order to maximise student enrolment, how student and faculty consultation can be incorporated into the reform process, and how the goals of institutional reform within the UK context will transform higher education.

Panel W034
Anthropologies of university reform: restructuring of higher education - anthropological perspectives