The marketization of higher education and focus on graduate employability and earnings data has raised questions about how students perceive their roles and responsibilities while studying for their degree. Of particular concern is the extent to which students identify themselves as consumers of their higher education, for example, whether they view their degree as a purchasable commodity to improve future earnings. This is because research has found that students with a stronger consumer identity perform less well academically. This study examined whether the negative impact of a consumer identity on academic performance could be explained by the impact of a consumer identity on the extent to which students adopt deep, surface, or strategic approaches to learning. The hypotheses were that the relation between consumer identity and academic performance would be mediated by approaches to learning, whereby a consumer identity would be associated with adopting a more surface approach and a less deep and less strategic approach. Undergraduates completed an online questionnaire that assessed the extent to which they identified as a consumer, their approaches to learning, and academic performance. The analysis partly supported the hypotheses: a stronger consumer identity was related to a more surface approach to learning. However, a surface approach to learning did not mediate the relation between consumer identity and academic performance. Conversely, a deep approach to learning mediated the relation between consumer identity and academic performance, whereby a stronger consumer identity was associated with poorer academic performance through its negative impact on a deep approach to learning. There was no relation between consumer identity and strategic approach to learning. Implications for students identifying themselves as consumers of their higher education are discussed.
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development
Year of publication: 2019Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-05-28