From “Customer” to “Partner”: Approaches to Conceptualization of Student-University Relationships
Under the pressures of massification of higher education, increasing competition among institutions, and a diversification of the student body, universities face challenges related to the quality of teaching and learning and student services. To understand how to support students, each university needs to decide on which theoretical assumptions about student development and student-university relationships with student support services should be based on. There have been many suggestions for conceptual models of student-university relationships: consumerism, student engagement model, student-centered model, and coproduction model. The most influential of these can be classified into three groups: “student as consumer,” “student as active learner,” and “student as partner.” However, there is an absence of literature, which review and classify the most popular conceptual models of student-university relationships or which agree on the most productive model(s). This chapter examines models that conceptualize student-university relationships, identifies their crucial assumptions, and discusses their applications for mass higher education. Five criteria were developed to compare the models: (1) outcomes of higher education; (2) student participation in the educational process; (3) responsibility for learning outcomes; (4) the capacity of students to influence the educational process, courses, and programs; and (5) quality indicators. Challenges for implementing the models for mass higher education are discussed.