How Students Are Gaining More Power As Consumers

How Students Are Gaining More Power As Consumers

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We all know that education is a significant financial investment where fees have never been higher and, in part, due to the access of information available to students today, we’re seeing more and more students fighting for their rights in a similar way to how employees fight against wrongful termination.

Indeed, employment law is a fast developing area of law, which has some similarities with student law.  Of course, the law differs based upon where you’re geographically located, but there are some interesting trends and principles that are worth noting if you’re a student, or have kids at college – for there seems to be a shift of power where students are starting to sue universities and colleges!

P.S.  If you’re considering studying law then this post will be right up your street!


When we think of education, we tend to see universities and colleges as almighty institutions with the power to determine the fate of young people.  Yet, from a legal perspective, a student is now being viewed as a “consumer of education.” This means that they are in a consumer contract with the college as a supplier of education. This is similar to how a holidaymaker would be in a consumer contract with a holiday company that places an obligation for the company to supply a reasonable quality of holiday to the customer based on its representations.

Of course, colleges don’t wish to promote this fact, but with consumers today being much more aware of their legal rights, we are starting to see a shift in the power dynamic of the student-college relationship.

Historically, this dynamic has been that of a superior teacher and an inferior student, where some students have had altercations with their education provider. Those interactions, in many cases, left students feeling unfairly treated or perhaps ‘trampled on’ by these institutions.In some cases, students feel like they have few legal right as they are “mere students”. 

Today, however, students are more aware (and exploitative) of the nature of this relationship, which is actually rather onerous on the educational institution to provide its services to a reasonable degree of skill, care and in alignment with the representations it makes in marketing material such as its prospectus.

Furthermore, educational institutions are subject to rather onerous equality legislation, which is a good thing for students  Roles have somewhat reversed where it seems that educational institutions are more eager to adjust to meet their students’ needs rather than the other way around.

In recent times, universities and colleges from around the world, particularly in the UK and the US, however, have hit the headlines as current and former students sue them for reasons such as poor quality of teaching, wrongful termination, disagreements over grades, and so on. 

In summary, it’s worthwhile keeping this in the back of your mind if you are a student having difficulties with your college or university. That power shift (which you may feel is not in your favor) could very swiftly be turned around.


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