Essay Example on Construction of the Student as Consumer by focusing upon the Hospitality Student.

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Introduction 402. In my dual role of a hospitality lecturer and sociology student in this essay, I intend to contribute to the debate surrounding the construction of the student as a consumer by focusing upon the hospitality student. As consumers of education hospitality students occupy an interesting space in the university environment because they are pursuing a course of study with specific vocational outcomes yet they are also expected to meet the challenges presented by more traditional academic rigor. In the first part of this essay, the discussion will acknowledge the central threshold concept of Production Exchange Distribution and Consumption PDEC Harvey Quilley and Beynon 2002 and Polanyi 2011. PDEC as a theoretical framework is key to understanding education as a commodity within the education marketplace and students as consumers of knowledge products. This essay will then address Machlup’s 1973 idea of the knowledge economy that contributed to the commodification of education. Within this context, the discussion will continue by arguing that the introduction of university fees in the UK gave rise to the student consumer. Dearing 1997 as exemplified by the hospitality student emergence in the HE arena In the second part, the complex role of the consumer is explored. The consumer is no longer the elusive figure devoid of identifiable characteristics as presented by Kyrk 1923 but understood in terms of a wide and broad set of values tastes and practices. Bordieu 1984 offers a more complex picture of the consumer whose choices are dictated by the appurtenances of consumer culture. Bourdieu suggests that taste classifies and it classifies the classifier defining the consumer within a realm of social privilege and status. Yet the symbolic value acquired through consumption can express more than meaning and identity.

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 Miller 1998 argues that the consumer can be described by their activities and practices embedded in the social relationships that may influence their consumption. The consumer emerges as an actor of identity extrapolating meaning and identity from the action of consumption Trentmann 2006. From this perspective, the modern consumer engages in a myriad of negotiations that are analyzed using Pettinger’s 2016 five categorizations of the consumer, in which the consumer fulfills different roles as an actor making choices of consumption.

 The conclusion draws together the different strands and reflects upon their relationships in terms of the student consumer and particularly of the hospitality student. It concludes by highlighting the limitations of this essay and offering a contribution for further investigation.

 2.1 PDEC 271 To constrain an explanation of the consumer within sterile economic processes as if it was an autonomous entity would mean depriving the former of an intricate range of activities and actors. Albeit succinct this brief overview of PDEC contributes to the understanding of the multitude of elements and forces that shape the artifact consumer within an economic system du Gay 1996.


Classic economics wisdom has regarded consumption as a structural process in order to generate value in a country there has to be enough consumption to sustain production Malthus 1820. However, this view tends to consider the consumer as a rational actor rather than a social actor. The latter makes choices in a defined context and the term embeddedness is frequently used to capture how an individual's actions are transformed by the social relations within which they exist. Polanyi 1957 1944 describes the human economy as embedded in institutions and defines the economy as an instituted process. This theory describes society’s livelihood efforts as an adjustment to its environment, a practice that does not necessarily require utility maximization. The term economics is considered under a broader spectrum of economizing or provisioning. Harvey’s 2007 instituted economic process framework highlights the reciprocal interdependence of consumption with processes of production distribution and exchange suggesting an institutional and configurational method of explanation of the economic system.

This theoretical framework helps understand the consumption of education as an economic institution pregnant with cultural and social elements. In this sense education is a commodity and as such in the next section I will make reference to the knowledge economy as the dawn of the student regarded as a consumer. 2 4 Commodification of Education 354 In free-market economies producers compete with one another to satisfy the demands the consumers. Smith 1999 1796 Marx 1976 1897 states that commodities products or services possess and exchange value a price that is bought or sold in a market. Schumpeter 1954 p 82 asserts the fundamental impulse that keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new markets. This seems to suggest that there would need to be a perennial search of new markets for the free market economy order to sustain itself. By definition, a free-market economy is devoid of any government intervention. Conversely, most nations including the UK adopt to varying degrees a mixed economy where governments exert some intervention in key areas such as education. Accordingly, there seems to be a general consensus that until recently, HE had managed to escape from the market’s constraints and influence thanks to large subsidizing from the State.

 Some may argue in return for shares of control over content and form. However, there is evidence that as the HE sector has increased in size to accommodate a larger share of students so has a greater reliance on intellectual abilities consequence of the emerging knowledge economy Machlup 1973. Therefore in order to respond to the greater funding required for sustaining, expanding universities' tuition fees were introduced. This eased financial pressure both on governments and universities themselves. Schwartzman 1995 Advocates view this state of affairs as a necessary development for the students. They are now given consumer status as they purchase a stake in their education. Critics argue that this view commodifies education where students pay fees in return for a qualification and skills leading to a job. Interestingly in 1963, a committee instructed by the UK government to report on the state of HE concluded it is impossible to devise any course of education or training that can automatically and correctly select future managers. Robbins Report 1963 p 135 Times have certainly changed and entering HE for a predefined job as opposed to searching for the unknown or challenge one's intellect seems no longer the main contradistinction between vocational and academic learning.

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