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Title: Student satisfaction in higher education : philosophical perspectives on voice, settlement, and customer relations
Author: Skea, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 4174
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis is concerned with the notion of student satisfaction and its effects on the Higher Education (HE) sector. It takes issue with two key features of the current literature on this topic: that 'student satisfaction' is taken as a given, and; that ensuring students are satisfied is typically accepted as a good thing. This thesis explores philosophically what it means to be 'satisfied' with one's education, considering what this implies about the value of HE, and the potential impact of this on universities, academics, and students alike. In offering a new and original stance on the issue of student satisfaction in Higher Education, this thesis draws on the philosophical works of Stanley Cavell, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Heidegger, and Martin Buber to inform its argument. Part I of the thesis provides a comprehensive overview of the concept of 'student satisfaction', its introduction into the HE sector, and how this is linked to other marketised discourses such as 'value for money' and 'service quality'. It argues that what is currently missing from the empirical literature on student satisfaction is a philosophical consideration of student voice, a questioning of the value of student satisfaction, and reflections on how the dominance of satisfaction measures impacts on relationships in the contemporary university. Part I includes an overview of the current, mostly empirical, literature on this topic and then discusses the philosophical 'method' employed here. The thesis then turns to its central themes - an attention to language, voice, perfectionism, and ethical relationships - to demonstrate that the exploration of key concepts is central to the 'method' pursued here. Part II of the thesis discusses three issues in HE that are inextricably tied to the student satisfaction agenda: the collection of student voice; the recent drive to offer a kind of settlement in teaching and learning, and; the shift from academic-student relationships to mere customer relations. The issues investigated here are discussed in light of three key distinctions: between 'feedback' and 'voice'; between forms of 'un-educative settlement' and 'educative unsettling', and; between relationships of 'exchange' and those of 'encounter'. In drawing on the philosophical works mentioned above, Part II not only problematises certain discourses and marketised practices in HE, but it also considers the practical implications of these ideas for universities, academics and their students. Part III of the thesis returns to the central distinctions made in Part II, such as that between 'feedback' and 'voice', to argue that what is most problematic about student satisfaction and its associated discourses is the encouragement of the former distinctions (for example, feedback) to the exclusion of the latter (such as voice). While acknowledging that student satisfaction cannot simply be removed or eradicated from the HE sector, the thesis offers a productive way forward in light of the issues raised by drawing an original and significant distinction between two different forms of 'satisfaction': the 'now-' and the 'not-yet-'. The thesis concludes by laying out several philosophically-informed principles for resisting current iterations of student satisfaction, and for embracing a richer conception of 'voice', encouraging educative unsettling in the classroom, and fostering relationships premised upon encounter.
Supervisor: Fulford, Amanda ; Farnsworth, Valerie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available