The Commercialisation of English and Scottish Higher Education and its Impact on Academic Misconduct

  • Talish Ahmed

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis aims to investigate the impact of the commercialisation of higher education in England and Scotland on academic misconduct. Commercialisation has positioned students as customers, which has been linked to a rise in student consumerism among them. It has also led to widening participation to include more students from non-traditional backgrounds who are more likely to struggle academically. In accordance with general strain theory, these students may experience strain due to an inability to attain a good grade through legitimate means, potentially leading them to turn to illegitimate means such as academic misconduct instead. Previous research has found a link between student consumerism and academic entitlement and between academic entitlement and academic misconduct. Based on this, the present study assessed how well academic entitlement mediated the effects of student consumerism and strain on students’ attitudes towards academic misconduct.

To achieve this, data were collected from undergraduate and taught postgraduate students from across England and Scotland using an online questionnaire. Of the 432 responses retained for analysis, 421 were used in an SEM model to assess the relationships between the variables of concern. The results showed that student consumerism was positively related to academic entitlement, that academic entitlement was positively related to lenient attitudes towards academic misconduct, and that the relationship between student consumerism and attitudes towards academic misconduct was fully mediated by academic entitlement. Strain in the form of poor test-taking ability, attention problems, and course disinterest was positively related to academic entitlement, and academic entitlement was the strongest mediator of the relationship between strain and attitudes towards academic misconduct. Moreover, post-hoc tests revealed no significant differences in the student consumerism and academic entitlement of English and Scottish students or of students with differing levels of fee responsibility. The thesis therefore makes a significant contribution to knowledge by showing how two consequences of commercialisation, namely student consumerism and the strain experienced by a greater number of students, lead to more lenient attitudes towards academic misconduct through academic entitlement.
Date of Award21 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDennis Duty (Main Supervisor) & Ruth Brooks (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this