Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A fine romance

An interesting item on the BBC website today – the University of Sheffield has abolished library fines for students.

The BBC rightly identifies this as stemming in part from the OFT’s advice against academic penalties for financial debts. And it also speaks to the growing recognition that students are customers (see also Goldsmiths’ decision to have a student member of its Remuneration Committee.)

But there’s a small sting in the tail – students have to bring the book back when someone else wants it, and won’t be allowed to borrow any more books until they do. So it isn’t quite a free-for-all, and the students will still need to learn to share. Although students in plural may be king (or queen), a student in the singular still needs to do what they’re told. The student contract isn’t quite dead yet.

I’m filing this under ‘straws in the wind’. There’s clearly a changing relationship between a university and its students, and some benign changes like this will occur, as well as some which may seem more threatening.

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