The metaphor of the student as a consumer or customer is widely used within contemporary higher education, and impacts on the ways in which students, academics and institutions behave. These, and a number of alternative metaphors for the student, are critically reviewed. The alternatives considered include both contemporary (student as client or as co-producer) and longstanding expressions (student as child, employer or apprentice). A new, and perhaps rather darker, metaphor, that of the student as a pawn, is then proposed. The usefulness of metaphors in higher education policy, and in analyses thereof, is considered.