Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Making Universities Relevant: Market Orientation as a Dynamic Capability within Institutions of Higher Learning

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Making Universities Relevant: Market Orientation as a Dynamic Capability within Institutions of Higher Learning

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As the globalization of the world economy continues, universities face the increasing challenge of being relevant. We explore the role of Market Orientation (MO) in helping universities align their internal resources, and thereby become more relevant to their stakeholders. Using the adapted Narver and Slater's (1990) measure items, we survey 3072 department chairs of computer science, engineering, and health science departments across the US. Our results show that MO is positively correlated to university commercialization. In a more surprising outcome, however, two dimensions of MO (Customer orientation and Inter-functional coordination) loaded on the same factor. Our results support the position that the external community, rather than students, represents the appropriate definition of a "university customer". Therefore, the appropriate emphasis of university MO is the external community. Using students (internal stakeholders) as end customers reduces the speed of absorption of information from the external environment. We suggest that the identification of the external customer will differ with each university, with a resulting differentiated effect on university's MO emphasis and relevance.

INTRODUCTION

Today's universities are facing significant budget constraints due to economic downturns as well as political and funding trends. Private universities experience reduced donations and returns on investment, while public universities receive less financial resources from governments and other funding sources. Faced with these challenges, many universities reduced the scholarships for newly enrolled students, postponed university building renovations, minimized hiring, and reduced or eliminated salary increases.

Recognizing that these steps represent only a short term solution, many universities focus on promoting programs or actions that can generate long-term revenue for their institutions. Consequently, some universities entered the global market and recruited higher numbers of international students, especially from China and India (Hing, 1996). Other universities focused on bridging gaps between universities and the industry, toward greater facilitation of the technology transfer process. Finally, other universities created different programs to meet specific community needs, such as entrepreneurship programs, leadership certificate programs, and healthcare management programs. To survive the competitive pressures and economic downturns, universities continue to react to political, economic, technological, and other environmental changes.

To deal with the new environmental uncertainty, a university needs a culture that is relevant and responsive to the external environment. Culture, as defined by Todorovic (2004) is a set of complex routines which configure internal organizational resources into capabilities and competencies. Market orientation represents one set of dynamic complex routines, in itself a dynamic capability, which in the private sector is closely correlated to organizational performance (Day, 1994a; Hurley & Huit, 1998; Jaworski, Stathakopoulos, & Krishnan, 1993; Kohli & Jaworski, 1990; Mengue & Auh, 2006; Narver & Slater, 1990; Slater & Narver, 1994b, 1995, 2000). Kotier and Fox (1985) also documented the importance of strategic marketing (also referred to as an orientation) in higher education more than two decades ago. Therefore, a market-oriented university culture should help enable universities to facilitate and manage the change process. We therefore posit that Market orientation does and will increasingly continue to play a significant role in increasing universities' performance - in an increasingly competitive environment.

Although the effect of market orientation on firms' performance has been widely recognized, few studies explore the relationship between market orientation and university performance. This study attempts to fill the gap by first examining the structure of market orientation within the university context. …

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