Of course, "rebranding" our students as customers has implications - consumer advocates, and Customer Service For Beginners marketers, smilingly insist that The Customer Is Always Right. The newspapers recently reported on the case of a PhD student who clearly lacked the remotest understanding of the external examination process to which all theses are subjected. The report conveyed the attitude of a disgruntled customer wishing to obtain a refund on a disappointing product - like the Sea Monkeys of the 1970, the reality simply didn't live up to the hype.
Of course, it takes the Americans to take this orientation to its logical conclusion. Not content with merely soliciting student feedback on courses for quality assurance purposes, they've spawned a myriad websites where Customers (fka Students) can post reviews on their Service Providers (fka lecturers), so that other Customers can shop around for the best deal. And, if that means the softest deal, then hey, why not? They're consumers, after all.
I referred elsewhere to the UCLA alumnus who profiled 31 "radical" academics, and was paying students to spy on their lecturers for similar exposure, but some of these other sites take things quite a bit further. It's open season on lecturers out there - and lecturers are increasingly having to choose between professional integrity (and some nod at maintaining "standards") and "customer satisfaction" - popularity with the students, which usually means inflating course marks and diluting requirements.
And before you roll your eyes and sigh, "Only in America"... you might care to visit Teacher Review.Com - they've moved their focus beyond North America and have now included universities elsewhere for reviews. Including our own. (There are currently no reviews posted, but that could all change overnight!)
Be afraid? Be very afraid!