Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

Demographic Factors in the Evaluation of Service Quality in Higher Education: International Students' Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

Demographic Factors in the Evaluation of Service Quality in Higher Education: International Students' Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

Increasing globalization has significantly impacted on the nature and delivery of higher education. Nowadays, students the world over have opportunities to study abroad. Meanwhile, higher education institutions, both public and private, are expanding their market boundaries to cater to international students in addition to their traditional, local students. This trend reflects clearly the mobility of international students around the world and it is evident that many students enroll in other countries to attain higher education; in 2009, the number of tertiary students enrolled in institutions outside their countries of origin reached 3.7 million, of which 83% were studying in G20 countries (OECD, 2011). As the international students emerged as an important segment in the education market, especially of higher education, universities and colleges began to adopt the marketing concept and customer orientation in their efforts to recruit international students.

To attract foreign students to a higher education institution, the quality of education services provided to the students can be considered as an appropriate measure. Education is by nature a service industry and service quality is the key to the satisfaction of students and consequently to the success of education institutions. Due to the importance of service quality in the education industry, there were many studies investigating the important attributes and dimensions of service quality. Scholars attempted to develop models to measure and evaluate service quality, e.g. SERVQUAL and SERVPERF. A large number of studies were undertaken in the field of service quality of higher education using SERVQUAL model (Buttle, 1996).

Studies of service quality took place in many areas of services, including education services in which the quality of educational services is perceived and evaluated by students. In most studies, demographic aspect of service quality was considered and findings were drawn in relation to the demographic factors. In general, students? demographic factors can moderate the levels of expectation and perception of service quality. Different demographic groups of students such as age, gender and nationality can evaluate the service quality of educational services in different ways.

The earlier studies of demographic factors in service quality were conducted in the context of general students without paying particular attention towards international students. New research should direct towards international students, as they are increasingly important for education institutions. International students are from different countries and with diverse social, cultural, political and economic backgrounds. The differences in these backgrounds can affect their evaluation of service quality. An understanding of evaluation of service quality in the context of demographic factors can serve as a major input for policy makers and marketing personnel. This study will investigate the crucial role of demographic variables on service quality evaluation by international students pursuing higher education in Singapore.

Literature Review

Service Quality

In the business and marketing literature, much attention has been paid to services and services marketing. Service is recognized as a form of product that consists of activities, benefits or satisfaction offered for sale (Kotler & Armstrong, 2010). Service quality is essential to a service company as it can directly have impact on customer satisfaction (Ibid, 2010; Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry, 1985; Buttle, 1995). However, the distinct nature of service being different from goods makes it difficult to judge service quality. It is safe to say that it is almost impossible for service quality to be measured objectively.

Notwithstanding the lack of absolute measurements of quality, in reality, service quality is still "measured" in the eyes of customers. Perception is defined as "the process in which an individual selects, organizes, and interprets stimuli into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world? …

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