Her majesty the student: marketised higher education and the narcissistic (dis)satisfactions of the student-consumer
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Authors: Nixon, E., Scullion, R. and Hearn, R.
Journal: Studies in Higher Education
© 2016 Society for Research into Higher Education. Intensifying marketisation across higher education (HE) in England continues to generate critical commentary on the potentially devastating consequences of market logic for pedagogy. In this paper, we consider the student-consumer prominent in these debates as a contested yet under-analysed entity. In contrast to the dominance of homo economicus discursively constructed in policy, we offer a psychoanalytically informed interpretation of undergraduate student narratives, in an educational culture in which the student is positioned as sovereign consumer. We report findings drawn from in-depth interviews that sought to investigate students’ experiences of choice within their university experience. Our critical interpretation shows how market ideology in an HE context amplifies the expression of deeper narcissistic desires and aggressive instincts that appear to underpin some of the student ‘satisfaction’ and ‘dissatisfaction’ so crucial to the contemporary marketised HE institution. Our analysis suggests that narcissistic gratifications and frustrations may lie at the root of the damage to pedagogy inflicted by unreflective neoliberal agendas.