Myths about students in higher education pervade both popular and academic literature. Such folklore thrives due to the belated development of systematic enquiry into higher education as a field of academic study, the neglect of an historical perspective, and an over-reliance on opinion-based scholarship and interview data drawn from University lecturers as a proxy for interpreting student attitudes. This paper analyses three popular myths about University students: expansion of the participation rate lowers academic standards (‘more means worse’), students in the past were more intrinsically motivated (‘loss of love for learning’), and learners apply market-based assumptions in engaging with higher education as a commodity (‘student-as-consumer’). These myths have an enduring verisimilitude but the evidence underpinning such claims cannot be empirically substantiated. It is argued that, taken collectively, these myths constitute a recurring moral panic about University students and that the veracity of such claims needs to be evaluated critically on this basis. Copyright © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
CitationMacfarlane, B. (2020). Myths about students in higher education: Separating fact from folklore. Oxford Review of Education, 46(5), 534-548. doi: 10.1080/03054985.2020.1724086
- Academic standards
- Moral panic
- Higher education