Chinese Adolescent Student Service Quality and Experience in an International Tertiary Education System

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

On the 13th of July, 2001, under intense international competition, Beijing was awarded the honor, privilege, and responsibility of hosting the 23rd Modern Olympiad. As part of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation of the Beijing bid, it had observed that "a Beijing Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to sports" (IOC internet web site, www.Olympic.org), thus highlighting the importance to both the city and the nation of delivering a successful event. In response, Beijing immediately began a mammoth program of construction, development, and renewal, designed to showcase the city to an international audience. As part of that program, the city is training 70,000 volunteer workers, plus an additional 30,000 to work with the Paralympic Games (Beijing 2008 internet web site, http://en beijing2008.com). The overall purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss a number of customer service issues associated with the planned performance of these volunteers.

Over the past generation, as the People's Republic has progressively pursued a global strategy of communication and integration with the West, it has radically reversed the policies established by its iconic early leadership. Isolation has been replaced by co-operation, agriculture supplemented by industry, and a rigidly collectivist philosophy of government augmented by increasingly pragmatic individual enterprise. In the last ten years in particular, tertiary education institutions in the English-speaking world have benefitted from these policy changes as a growing number of Chinese students have enrolled in programs that reflect their developing interests and capabilities, progressing from an early focus on study of the English language to the current preference for knowledge of international business, information technology, law, finance, and tourism.

For these students, the learning experience is threefold as they simultaneously acquire formal qualifications, improve their written and spoken English, and learn about the host country's value systems and business practices. Given that these host countries are likely to be well represented among the Olympics audience, both in person and via television, it is reasonable to assume that the Beijing volunteers will attract a significant number of young people who recently completed a tertiary education overseas in an obvious role reversal; those who were once guests of the West will now act as their hosts.

Hypothesizing the existence of a significant relationship between the quality of their own tertiary education and the model of hospitality subsequently offered to visitors, the present research uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the views of 160 students at a tertiary institution in Australia. It is an investigation into the extent to which service quality in Australia tertiary education meets Chinese students' expectations. This objective is addressed through identification of four supporting sub-questions:

1. What are the critical factors Chinese students take into account when evaluating the quality of their tertiary education experience?

2. What is the relative weight of each factor in determining their quality evaluations?

3. How well do Western educators perform when measured against these criteria?

4. To what extent will the results of students' evaluations influence their own service provision philosophy?

LITERATURE REVIEW

Beginning with the seminal writings of Parasuraman and his associates (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry 1985, 1988), numerous authors have attempted to establish linkages between the related concepts of perceived service quality, subsequent customer satisfaction, and eventual recommendation or repeat purchasing behaviors. For an excellent review of this literature, as it relates to the tourism industry, see Augustyn and Ho (1998).

Recognition of the importance of service quality in tertiary education has emerged more slowly, despite an extraordinarily radical shift in conventional understanding of what tertiary education means from the perspective of both students and educators. …