Higher education is in a state of flux. The shift of the funding from the government to students is changing many aspects of higher education. One stated aim of this move was to improve quality, attract students and offer students a richer experience. But this aim raises all kinds of questions about what counts as a good undergraduate education and about the appropriate nature of the higher education that is offered by universities. It also has important implications for how quality and student experiences of higher education are improved.

Debates around quality and student experiences of higher education have highlighted three different ways in which quality might be thought about, which have different implications for the improvement of quality. Any position we take on quality is based on our personal values and so I first outline my own engagement with teaching and learning in higher education and consider how it has shaped my position in relation to these issues.

My position on quality has been informed by my experiences as a student and member of staff in both further and higher education. My undergraduate degree was in Applied Social Science at Kingston Polytechnic (although it became a university in the year that I graduated). I basically studied the politics, sociology, economics and philosophy of welfare. The teaching we had was brilliant and the students were from a diverse range of backgrounds. From here, I managed to get British Academy funding to do a Masters in Philosophy of the Social Sciences from the London School of Economics. I hadn’t realised that whilst I had studied philosophy from the perspective of social sciences at Kingston, at the LSE I would be studying the social sciences from the perspective of philosophy. I spent the first term and a half being told I wasn’t making philosophical arguments and whilst I found the challenge of learning how to do this rewarding, I was shocked by the lack of care for us as a group of students. One incident summed this up for me when I began work on my dissertation. I turned up to see my supervisor and we had a useful initial chat about the topic. I then asked when we could meet again to discuss my progress and was told ‘no, you now go away and write it. We will not be meeting again’. The contrast with my polytechnic experience was stark.

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