Educational Research and Reviews

  • Abbreviation: Educ. Res. Rev.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1990-3839
  • DOI: 10.5897/ERR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 2008

Full Length Research Paper

Analytical observations of the applicability of the concept of student-as-customer in a university setting

George O. Tasie
  School of Business and Entrepreneurship, American University of Nigeria, Yola, Gombe State, Nigeria
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 27 April 2010
  •  Published: 30 June 2010



Total quality management (TQM) strives to improve organizational functioning by carefully studying the interface between an organization’s mission, values, vision, policies and procedures, and the consumer that the organization serves. Central to this approach to revitalizing economic institutions is the importance placed on client satisfaction. The maxim “the customer is always right,” or “the customer is the king’” are the driving forces in TQM efforts to increase performance and profits. Customers’ needs and desires are researched and analyzed, and product design, sales and service are modified to produce higher levels of customer satisfaction and, in turn, greater profitability for the company. Can the concept of “student-as-customer” readily fit into the context of education and learning in higher institutions as a jointly negotiated process? The main focus of this paper is to analyze the debate between the two opposing views: some concede that similarity exists between a university student and a more traditional customer at, say, a local department store, while others argue that this kind of comparison is without merit. A good number of university educations are indeed similar to business, and for these, the TQM emphasis on the customer rings true. In many ways, university students are customers. Universities should make every reasonable effort to satisfy students in such areas and to attempt to gather student input in assessing how well these needs are being met. However, applying the concept of student-as-customer in its fullest scope may run the risk of placing the teacher/instructor in the position of merely responding to what the students want, sacrificing any personal autonomy and professional responsibility. This could, if taken to its ultimate end, mean that the teacher would have very little part to play in decisions regarding the aims, content, methods and evaluation of the learning and educational processes. The major challenge for today’s universities is to strike the balance between the “student-as-customer” and the “student-as-learner.”


Key words: Total quality management, student-as-customer, learning, education, management rationality.