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Dr Jessica Abrahams

Research Fellow
+44 (0)1483 683972
29 AD 04

My publications


Brooks Rachel, Abrahams Jessica (2018) Higher education students as consumers? Evidence from England, In: Tarabini Aina, Ingram Nicola (eds.), Educational Choices, Aspirations and Transitions in Europe: Systemic, Institutional and Subjective Constraints Routledge
It is now widely assumed in England ? by academics and social commentators alike ? that, as a result of the introduction of a wide range of market reforms over the past few decades, English students have become consumers of higher education (HE). In this chapter we draw on two sources of data to interrogate critically these assumptions in relation to both students? choice-making processes and experiences of degree-level study. Firstly, we analyse the extent to which students are constructed as consumers in contemporary policy documents, including the white paper Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice (DBIS, 2016), which provides the basis for the Higher Education Bill which has recently passed through the UK parliament. Secondly, we consider the extent to which these constructions are shared by students themselves, using data from focus groups in a diverse sample of English higher education institutions (HEIs). We explore whether students contest these constructions and/or offer their own alternatives. The structure of our chapter is as follows: we first discuss the background to the research, by outlining key facets of the higher education system in England, and some of the main theoretical debates that are pertinent to our study. We then briefly describe our research methods before going on to present our findings in some detail ? comparing the degree of congruence between policy constructions and student understandings. In our conclusion, we discuss some of the systemic challenges that emerge from our data.