Shifts in funding and a worldwide trend towards marketising higher education have led to a new emphasis on the quality of the student experience. In the UK this trend finds its strongest expression in recent policy proposals to simultaneously increase student fees and student choice so that students themselves become the drivers of higher education. We trace the policy developments of this shift over recent years and rehearse some of the criticisms against it. Accepting that there is good reason to support improving the student experience, we then consider ways in which this might be achieved that foreground the relation of university teachers with their subject matter and students’ engagement in this. A higher education, we argue, should expose its students to disciplines whose standards are rightly contested and to a form of learning that intensifies or unsettles desires rather than simply aspiring to satisfy them.