Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Motives, Expectations, Perceptions and Satisfaction of International Students Pursuing Private Higher Education in Singapore

Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Motives, Expectations, Perceptions and Satisfaction of International Students Pursuing Private Higher Education in Singapore

Article excerpt

Abstract

As education is an important sector in every national economy, it is arguable that higher education is a key area of interest of both public and private institutions. With globalization, the higher education sector is internationalized through the mobility of the institutions and students alike. International students are increasingly moving to other countries in pursuit of education and other interests such as career opportunities, cultural and social experiences, and even migration.

The present study investigates international students' motives in studying abroad and the impacts of these different motives on their evaluation of service quality of the institutions where they study. This study attempts to incorporate the motives of their study with the well recognized service quality model, namely SERVQUAL.

This study was empirically conducted in a private higher education institution in Singapore, gathering data from 263 international students who are studying in the business programmes. The survey method was used to gather the required data about the motives, expectations and perceptions as well as the level of satisfaction with the education service provided by the institution under study.

The study found that the students held four kinds of motives: academic & education, career & migration, pleasure & experience and work. The study suggests that educational marketers should consider the role and influence of the motives in evaluating service quality by international students and to develop their education programmes accordingly so that their level of service quality will be enhanced from the perspective of international students.

Keywords: education marketing, higher education, service quality, motives, SERVQUAL, customer satisfaction

1. Introduction

The education sector is an important contributor to every national economy, as a substantial amount of public spending is invested in this sector which generates a large number of employment. Within this sector, special attention needs to be paid to private higher education in which most of mobile (international) students are studying. This is because of the large sums of money spent by a growing number of people in this activity. According to the World Bank, spending on higher education approached US$400 billion in 2006 (Bjarnason, Cheng, Fielden, Lemaitre, Levy & Varghese, 2009, p. 16) and, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), in 2009, about 3.4 million students are enrolled outside their country of citizenship (cited by Choudaha & Chang, 2012, p. 6). In line with the globalization of services, higher education services are internationalized in which the mobility of institutions as well as students are taking place (Harman, 2001; Kritz, 2006; Perkinson, 2006; Vincent-Lancrin, 2008; Baier, 2009).

Higher education is seen nowadays as an international service industry (i.e. business activity) engaged by both public and private institutions. The sheer number as well as the growth rate of students in tertiary education indicate the increasing importance of the higher education sector and hence the need for systematic approach to achieve the goals of the participants in the industry (Gupta, 2005; Hammond, Webster & Harmon, 2006; Rindfresh, 2003).

Singapore is one of the major host countries in Asia for international students. By 2010, 48,623 international (mobile) students studied in tertiary education of Singapore (UIS, 2012). Singapore is a city that "offers a more alluring mix of cutting-edge infrastructure, world-class education system and dynamic cosmopolitan vibe thanks to a blend of Eastern and Western cultures" (Singapore Education, 2006, para. 2). Her reputation for efficiency, cleanliness, rule of law, among others, have made it a favourite place of study for many foreign students, most of whom come from China, India and the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. The government of Singapore has strived to position Singapore as an educational hub in Southeast Asia, setting the target of attracting 150,000 foreign students to study here particularly at higher education level, by the year 2015 (Economic Review Committee, 2003, p. …

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