Student Voice

An economic view on higher education and the impact of student voice on educational methods

By Eve Bracken-Ingram

At Student Voice, we view the involvement of students in decisions surrounding their education as key for increasing engagement, motivation, and academic performance of students. The capturing of student voice allows institutions to improve educational practices to create a more effective and inclusive higher education experience. The 2021 article by Hemming and Power (Source) explored the role of student voice in higher education through an economic lens. It argues that there may be a financial benefit and requirement for higher education institutions to take student voice into account. Due to rising financial implications for students attending university and the business model approach of institutions, the status of a student within the higher education framework has changed. Self-funded students are now viewed as consumers and there is a growing sense of student entitlement. Due to the increased power of students as customers, there is a rising need for universities to adapt their teaching and assessment processes to meet student’s expectations and desires.

In higher education institutions, student voice is commonly captured via Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) surveys conducted at the end of term. SET allows students to voice their perception of teaching methods and staff and assessment. Student voice can be influential in higher education institutions in the following ways:

  1. Student evaluations are used to improve quality of teaching.
  2. Student feedback is considered when determining academic promotion.
  3. Quality indications for teaching and learning (QITL), which are determined through student surveys, are used to market the university.

In the context of economics, the third point is of particular interest. If care is not taken to adapt teaching and assessment in response to student perceptions, then QITL will be negatively affected. Consequentially, the university may lose revenue as students choose to study elsewhere.

Assessment is of particular importance to students. Therefore, the key to improving student’s perceptions and QITL may lie in adapting assessment methods to better fit students timelines, workloads, and strengths. Hemming and Power created a conceptual model which highlight the influences that affect student perception of assessment in the higher education business model context. This model identifies 13 key factors which influence student perception of educational methods such as stress and anxiety, strengths and weaknesses, personal motivation, and approach to learning. The relationship between influences, student perceptions, and corporate goals is considered dynamic as these components feedback and influence each other.

Many higher education institutions have already begun taking student perception into account by providing marking sheets to clarify assessment requirements and reducing course length. Through analysis in this article, Hemming and Power predict that universities will begin to react to student voice by:

  • Further reducing time to complete a degree.
  • Adapting assessment methods to reduce workload.
  • Redesigning courses to reflect the desires of students.

This article has argued that higher education institutions should be viewed through an economics lens when considering the effect of student voice. Students now have a powerful role as consumer within these frameworks and as such are capable of influencing change in teaching and assessment methods. It is predicted that universities will adapt their educational methods to reflect these desires, even at the expense of education quality. As educational institutions are further viewed as businesses, the priorities and goals of students, lectures and institutions may change. It will essential that universities maintain high student satisfaction to increase student attraction and retention, and maximise revenue.


[Source Paper] Hemming, A., & Power, M. (2021) Student ‘voice’ and higher education assessment: Is it all about the money?, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 18(1).
DOI: 10.53761/

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