There is widespread concern that higher education is being compromised by being turned into a ‘commodity' to be ‘consumed'. This article represents an initial attempt to explore the trends in both the UK and US, and considers how the law has responded to them. It argues, however, that there is an important distinction to be drawn between ‘commodification' and ‘consumerism'. Education has always been a commodity to be bought and sold; the true danger lies in the move to a ‘rights-based' culture where students (and politicians) see education merely as something to be ‘consumed' rather than as an activity in which to participate. Whilst the law seems thus far to have been something of a bulwark against this movement, it remains an open question as to whether this will continue to be the case if HEIs do not themselves act more proactively in challenging this damaging view of higher education.