Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32468
The Price of Knowledge in the Times of Commodification of Higher Education: A Case Study on the Changing Face of Education

Authors: Joanna Peksa, Faith Dillon-Lee


Current developments in the Western economies have turned some universities into corporate institutions driven by practices of production and commodity. Academia is increasingly becoming integrated into national economies as a result of students paying fees and is consequently using business practices in student retention and engagement. With these changes, pedagogy status as a priority within the institution has been changing in light of these new demands. New strategies have blurred the boundaries that separate a student from a client. This led to a change of the dynamic, disrupting the traditional idea of the knowledge market, and emphasizing the corporate aspect of universities. In some cases, where students are seen primarily as a customer, the purpose of academia is no longer to educate but sell a commodity and retain fee-paying students. This paper considers opposing viewpoints on the commodification of higher education, reflecting on the reality of maintaining a pedagogic grounding in an increasingly commercialized sector. By analysing a case study of the Student Success Festival, an event that involved academic and marketing teams, the differences are considered between the respective visions of the pedagogic arm of the university and the corporate. This study argues that the initial concept of the event, based on the principles of gamification, independent learning, and cognitive criticality, was more clearly linked to a grounded pedagogic approach. However, when liaising with the marketing team in a crucial step in the creative process, it became apparent that these principles were not considered a priority in terms of their remit. While the study acknowledges in the power of pedagogy, the findings show that a pact of concord is necessary between different stakeholders in order for students to benefit fully from their learning experience. Nevertheless, while issues of power prevail and whenever power is unevenly distributed, reaching a consensus becomes increasingly challenging and further research should closely monitor the developments in pedagogy in the UK higher education.

Keywords: Economic pressure, commodification, pedagogy, gamification, public service, marketization.

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 583


[1] W. Shumar, College for Sale: A Critique of the Commodification of Higher Education. London: Falmer Press, 1997
[2] G. Williams,“Higher Education: Public good or private commodity?” London Review of Education, 14 (1), 131-142, 2006
[3] E. B. Pruvot, T. Estermann and V. Lisi,“ Public Funding Observatory Report”. European University Association. 2018. Retrieved on 01 June 2020 from:
[4] HESA, What is the income of HE providers?, 2019. Retrieved 01 June 2020 from
[5] N. Hillman, “The Coalition’s higher education reforms in England” , Oxford Review of Education, 42 (3), 330-345, 2016
[6] Y. Assad and T. C. Melewar, “Universities and Export Market Orientation: an explorative study of UK post-92 universities.” MIP 31 (7) 838-856, 2013
[7] Further and Higher Education Act 1992, c.13. (United Kingdom). Retrieved on 01 June 2020 from:
[8] E.A. Bates and L. K. Kaye,“ ‘I’d be expecting caviar in lectures’: The impact of the new fee regime on undergraduate students’ expectations of Higher Education” High. Educ, (67) 655-673, 2014
[9] Middlesex University London, Undergraduate 2020. Retrieved on 01 June 2020 from
[10] M. M. Karp , “How Non-Academic Supports Work: Four Mechanisms for Improving Student Outcomes” CCRC 54, 1-4 April 2011
[11] V. Trowler, “Student Engagement Literature Review”, The Higher Education Academy, 2010. Retrieved 01 June 2020 from
[12] G. D. Kuh, “The National Survey of Student Engagement: Conceptual and Empirical Foundations” New Directions for Intuitional Research. 141, p. 5-20, 2009.
[13] L. Tessier and J. Tessier, “Theme-based courses foster student learning and promote comfort with learning material”, Journal for learning through the Arts 11 (1), 2015. Retrieved on 30 May 2020 from:
[14] J. Peksa, M. Lawson and F. Dillon-Lee, “Volcanos, Mermaids, Castles and Forests: utilising creativity to enhance student achievement and engagement with university services”. M. Carmo (ed). Education and New Developments (678-680). Lisbon: InScience Press, 2017.
[15] M. Reardon, “Problem-based learning and other curriculum models for the multiple intelligences classroom”, Roeper Review, 22(2), 139. Retrieved on 01 June 2020 from:
[16] M. Olssen and M. A. Peters, “Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism”, Journal of Education Policy, 20 (3), 313-345, DOI: 10.1080/02680930500108718.
[17] M. Foucault, Remarks on Marx: conversations with Duccio Trombadori New York Semiotext(e), 1991 (p. 165).
[18] K. Judson and A. Taylor, “Moving from Marketization to Marketing of Higher Education : The Co-Creation of Value in Higher Education”, Higher Education Studies 4(1), 2014.
[19] M. Molesworth, R. Scullion and E. Nixon, The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. London : Routledge, 2011.
[20] Education Reform Act 1988, Section 202 (2) Retrieved on 01 June 2020 from: