I left academia 20+ years ago but I am closely following SE Academia (mostly because it is interesting and gives a different perspective from industry).

I noticed several questions regarding the "well-being" of students (broadly speaking), an example being a recent question on whether to adapt to their request to cancel lectures.

When I was a student, and then a teacher, the rules were that the lecturer is coming to provide a lecture, at a given time, and if someone is not present then they had to catch-up a way or another. This was the same in primary, secondary school (in Europe, mostly Germany and France).

Has the relationship with students changed in these 20+ years?

I am specifically not looking for an opinion about these changes (which can range from "in my time professors were demi-gods" to "now everyone is equal and the ones who pay set some rules"). I rather want to understand whether the dynamics between lecturers and students is different today, and ideally why (because of, say, how technology helps to provide up-to-date lectures?, or that the number of commercial school is higher?, ...).

I am mostly interested in a European perspective, but anything is welcome.

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    Yes, it changed a lot, and in many ways. I wrote something about this in this meta answer (second part), but if I can find the time I'll write an answer here. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 16:51
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    I think this is impossible to answer in any objective way. My relationship has changed, of course, as I've grown older and learned more. Society has changed. Students have different needs today and different opportunities. What hasn't changed, actually? And some things are cyclic, also. I thought my professors were terrifically smart. My students thought the same of me, whether valid or not.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 18:41
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    @Buffy I think an objective answer is actually possible. The reason is that many changes in the relations between students and professors have been driven by mechanisms that have been established by universities to allow students to exercise their rights, rights that 20-30 years ago were not even recognized. Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 9:39

1 Answer 1


To answer the second part of your question: The notion of "students as customers" - probably as unpalatable to faculty as it is loved by administrators - is surely part of this shift.

After all, if students are "paying customers", that naturally recasts the degree into a "product" that they begin to imagine they have an automatic right to.

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