Students or Customers?

Published: 27 August 2015

One of the most popular TV sitcoms in the 1980’s was the BBC’s ‘The Young Ones’. The show depicted four undergraduate students living what was the (then) generally accepted view of “student life”. How times have changed. Fast forward to the present and ‘The Young Ones 2015’ would look like a very different show! The “student experience” is a concept (a culture?) which is here to stay. Yet, the word “customer” is still often seen as somewhat of a slur in academic circles. Whilst this is slowly changing, the pace of change is not quick enough at some institutions.

With the rise in tuition fees, students are now genuine customers. Outside of a mortgage, there will likely be little else in one’s life which demands as much financial resource and energy as attending university. Despite this, students at some universities still expect to receive sub-standard services. Have a query on exams, timetabling, fees and accommodation? Expect to have to make four separate trips across geographically dispersed offices!

The good news is the sector is catching up. Powered by smart ERP systems or improving student record systems, universities are starting to build single views of their “customers”. With student hubs (the one-stop-shops) popping up over the country, the experience now feels more in sync with what you would expect from a close to £30,000 investment. Private sector professionals who have instilled cultures of “customer excellence” can make a real impact on this increasingly crucial area of university life. Recruiting into positons which look after the student lifecycle should be diverse appointments and shortlists; people who bring genuine customer service expertise along with a passion for education.

Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with universities to appoint senior leaders whom have a direct responsibility for cultivating the student experience. 

Categories: Education Recruitment

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