Monday, May 27, 2024

A Legal Shift: Students as “Consumers”.

May 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Education, Money/Business, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comThere’s recently been a lot of students taking their universities and colleges to court, which is an interesting power shift, as usually it is universities that hold all the power, but as students are starting to view themselves as empowered consumers universities are finding themselves more and more subject to legal scrutiny.

Technically, a student is in contract with their college; it’s a form of consumer contract whereby the college provides education in return for a fee paid by the student, thus making the student a consumer.

Will this be the next wave of class action lawsuits where adverts will be placed around campus in the same way a catastrophic injury attorney might advertise their services in a hospital setting… or is this a fad that will be quickly nipped in the bud, and perhaps students even made to waive their legal right to claim against their university upon enrollment and matriculation?

In recent times universities and colleges have hit the headlines as they are being exposed for “pushing their weight around” by students that are becoming more and more empowered to take on their academic institution in a legal context (thanks to the internet).  

Indeed, there are more and more lawsuits being made against universities for causes of action ranging from inequality (i.e. discriminating against someone with a disability or due to the colour of their skin) to breach of contract (i.e. not fulfilling their end of the bargain) and misrepresentation (i.e. misrepresenting a particular course or entry requirements).

There certainly seems to be a powershift in education, where more and more students are becoming independent litigator’s; and whilst some cases are clearly arising from a bruised ego or personal vendetta against an academic institution, many cases are being treated seriously and awarded significant damages within the courts.

With fees, today, being so high many are carefully considering the value of an academic education.  Indeed, if you look to some of the most successful entrepreneurs’ education you’ll notice that many dropped out of college.

Therefore, there is no intrinsic value in having a higher education qualification as there are plenty of people today with fantastic degrees that work in call centres; the reality is that a higher education qualification does not automatically lead to higher earnings.  

In fact, the only way to make more money in life is to create more value and whilst formal education can contribute to your ability to be of more value – it’s not the be all and end all.  

People are compensated based on the value they create for a third party – whether you work for yourself or as an employer, the universal fact remains, that people get paid according to the value they provide.

Today, with the likes of Udemy and Lynda people are able to learn very specific skills that are attributed to creating more value in the marketplace, and colleges are having to compete with and adapt their offerings to this more flexible and vocationally focused training.

In summary, there’s a powershift taking place within education.  This powershift is fuelled by students now seeing themselves as consumers with legal rights they wish to enforce, perhaps due to the amount of fees they are paing.

Staff Writer; Gary Adams

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