I have discussed the influence of governments and organized groups in the university. Students are also an influence on the university. By attending university for certain reasons and expecting the university to provide a certain service, they are acting in much the same way as consumers do. Students attend university for four distinct reasons: they wish to gain a degree, they wish to learn a particular subject, they wish to explore the world and they wish to gain a job.
Students who wish to gain a degree usually do so with the expectation that they will find a job with the degree or learn the subject. The difference is that those who need the degree may already know large parts of the subject or be perfectly capable of doing the job they are interested in. The problem is that the job requires the degree, so they must get the degree to do the job. If they intend to learn the subject, then the school may offer an accelerated program, or some kind of special dispensation, but there is no way to test the knowledge of newcomers and place them at an appropriate level.
Students who wish to gain a job have a clear motive. They either believe that a degree will aid in finding a job or they have a particular kind of job in mind that requires that degree.
Students who wish to explore the world come to the university not merely as a place of learning but also as a social center. They may switch majors repeatedly, take time to have fun and try new behaviors that were not considered appropriate at home. In the best sense, such students want to learn everything and look to the university as the place of their dreams. In the worst sense, such students party all the time and don’t learn anything.
Students who come to learn a particular science are who the university aims to serve. At least, that is what they claim. These are students who are actually interested in the subject for the sake of knowledge. If this is their sole reason for attending university, then this group seems to be fairly rare.
Students usually do not fall completely within one of these categories. Most students are at university to get a good job in a field that interests them. I cannot say what the proportions of the reasons are without a proper survey on this issue. As far as I know, no survey has been done and no study has been done either.
These reasons create an interesting mix of influences on the university. Since a large number of students are there to get jobs, they do not really care to take courses unrelated to their future job. They also do not want to take difficult courses or theoretical courses that they will not use later. This creates a kind of competition between universities to lower standards and loosen requirements for degrees. Students also want more courses and options in these areas and care little about the traditional arts and science faculties. This creates a pressure to do exactly that. There is also some pressure to treat students as consumers who have an interest in studies rather than students who study by nature.