Book Chapter

The student ‘experience’ in commercialised higher education : a psychological needs perspective


The socio-political context in which learning takes place has a significant impact on students’ ‘experience’ in higher education. In England, UK, and other countries such as Australia and the United States of America, the influence of neoliberalism has extended to higher education; as a result, individual students, not the state, have become responsible for its cost. This act of commercialisation transforms students into consumers and universities into service providers. It challenges the traditional roles of students and academics by placing different emphases and new demands on learning and teaching. Within this context, this chapter discusses research examining how commercialisation may impact some aspects of the student experience, including academic performance, motivation for learning, and how academics perceive the effects of commercialisation on students and themselves. This chapter also considers the experience of a specific group of students—those from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Much of the research discussed is underpinned by a theory of motivation, self-determination theory. This theory is supported by empirical research showing that when our psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are met, we experience optimal forms of motivation to achieve our goals and have greater wellbeing. Unfortunately, the environment created by the commodification of higher education may cause conflict between what students think they want as consumers with what they need as learners, which undermines motivation for learning and academic success. These findings are discussed in light of implications for facilitating student engagement, experience, and learning, with resources provided at

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Bunce, Louise

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-12-09

All rights reserved.

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of The student ‘experience’ in commercialised higher education: A psychological needs perspective
This RADAR resource Cites Student identities and inclusion projects [Oxford Brookes University]
This RADAR resource is Part of Student support services {ISBN: 9789811333644] / edited by Henk Huijser, Megan Yih Chyn A Kek, Fernando F. Padró (Springer, 2021-).


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