Treating the student as a customer! A rather refreshing concept that flies in the face of educational orthodoxy where the student is most often regarded as a product.
This novel take was articulated by Dean Dr. Stephen Harrison when addressing the Swiss School of Business Research’s graduating class of 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. He was taking to task private schools and institutes who ignore their students by mimicking traditional universities in style and substance. He has a point!
Traditional universities are funded with public money, and often times also through private endowments. They are multi-disciplinary institutions with large campuses and permanent faculties, fixed curriculums driven by governmental education policies and therefore fixed commencements and completion timelines.
Private schools and institutes have no such constraints. The have a set of standards set by the government that they must meet and are evaluated and audited annually, but are funded solely by the fees they collect from their students. In that situation, aren’t they a service-based business with the student de-facto as their customer?
Exactly right, as Dr. Harrison explained to the students: “You’re the customer, you’re the ones that are paying for this. We should be listening to you, what … you want, what are your circumstances.” He thinks private schools haven’t focused on being, “customer-focused” in everything they do. As he puts it succinctly, “if (you) don’t have customers in a business you don’t have a business. You have a hobby. You’re spending a lot of time and effort for nothing.”
To remedy this wrong, he says from the get-go in 2020, he tried to position the Swiss School of Business Research as a “student-driven business school.” The central focus, especially in the advanced master’s and doctorate programmes, was the dissertation or thesis which was chosen and driven by the student’s own research, acquired either through previous study or work-experience, or a combination of both. Specialisation was always encouraged.
All the resources of the school were harnessed around this research. From the expert multinational professors and mentors with first-hand business experience, the massive reference and library support and guidance accessible to every student, flexible online face-to-face Google classrooms chosen to work across multiple time zones, right through to the flexible student-driven start and completion schedules, especially for working professionals with busy schedules – everything was geared to act as a wraparound support system that sharpened the scale and depth of the student’s research effort and helped bring the final thesis or dissertation up to the standards of the degree being sought.
If SSBR acknowledges a student as their customer, then this is customer-service at its finest, according to Dr. Harrison. And the results have indeed been gratifying. “…I’ve been looking at the theses or the dissertations that people have presented. And to be honest, I’ve been astounded by their quality – the excellent quality. We’re not getting people who are thinking “Oh I’ll just do the minimum to get my degree“! ”
With students from all over the world coming to SSBR, being people (rather than system-focused), student research-led and flexible in terms of timing, all backed by expert faculty and administrative staff has allowed an institute like SSBR to provide Swiss quality education to all.