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KCL accidentally sent emails calling their students 'customer' and blamed it on a glitch


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Incoming Masters student Nayana Prakash received an interesting welcome email from King's College London.

Prakash, who is set to begin her Masters in Modern Literature and Culture shared the email which referred to her as a 'customer.'

She tweeted a screenshot of the error with the comment 'I have received more convincing emails.'

The university apologised to Prakash and explained that they 'had a slight glitch affecting a handful of students.' 

Although the email was sent in error (clever glitch), it highlights the disparity between universities and their students who often feel like consumers.

The extortionate pricetag of university education means that students expect to receive excellent admin support, high-quality teaching, the best resources and subsidised (or free) printing because they are 'paying' for the service - they are paying £9,250 or more in tuition fees. 

Speaking to TNS about the email blunder, Prakash said:

'When I saw the word customer I was upset - the tweet is light-hearted but this is my first official correspondence from King's. I don't believe it's a coincidence that they think of us as customers first and students second.'

In 2016, the KCL College Council decided to raise tuition fees for the new cohort of freshers starting in 2017 despite the 'Freeze the Fees' campaign by students. 

survey conducted by the University of Winchester explained that students studying at English universities have 'been defined as customers by the government ever since the introduction of student tuition fees.' 

In fact, many universities have pages dedicated to 'Your consumer rights as a student' where they outline the consumer rights you have as an undergrad set out by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The three laws that the authority covers include the provision of 'upfront,' 'clear,' 'unambiguous information,' 'fair' and 'balanced' university terms and conditions. Finally, universities need to ensure 'their complaint handling processes and practices are accessible, clear and fair to students.'

It seems unlikely that the glitch would have randomly changed names to 'customer.' The business template most likely had the word customer by default, this is later overwritten with a student's name after they sign up or get accepted. 

Ultimately, King's accidental email glitch has made students like Prakash feel like consumers first and students second.

Featured image courtesy of Poppet with a camera

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