Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Demographic Factors in the Evaluation of Service Quality in Higher Education: A Structural Equation Model (SEM) Approach

Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Demographic Factors in the Evaluation of Service Quality in Higher Education: A Structural Equation Model (SEM) Approach

Article excerpt

Abstract

The increasing number of international students studying in advanced countries has sparked attention on service quality in higher education. Perception of service quality is subjective, and is believed to vary with the demographic characteristics of students. This study attempts to investigate the role that demographic factors play in service quality evaluation in the higher education sector. The framework used in this study is adopted from Min, Khoon and Tan (2012) and consists of four key constructs, namely motivation, expectation, perception and satisfaction. Applying the Structural Equation Model (SEM) approach to data collected from a sample of 263 international students in a private higher education institution in Singapore, the present study found that motive of study has moderate relationship with expectation and perception of service quality. Satisfaction of students is also closely and significantly related with the perception of service quality. It was also found that demography impacted on the relationships between the elements of service quality. The study included four demographic variables (gender, age, nationality and current level of study) and it was found that nationality and gender have considerable impact on the weights of relationships. The research findings suggest that education marketers should take demographic factors into consideration in the design and development of education services.

Keywords: service quality, motives, expectation, perception, satisfaction, demographic factor, higher education

1. Introduction

1.1 Research Problem

Increasing globalization and the consequent changing environment have impacted higher education around the world by, for example, increasing the mobility of students and the internationalization of education institutions (Arambewela & Hall, 2006). In efforts to attract more international students, universities and colleges are adopting the marketing concept whereby students are considered as customers. They are also paying closer attention towards service quality. The long-term survival of universities and colleges depends on the degree to which service quality meets their students' expectations (Tsinidou, Gerogiannis, & Fitisilis, 2010).

Service quality in higher education has been studied by many scholars, e.g., Adee (1997), Ham and Hayduck (2003), Arambewela and Hall (2006), Barnes (2007), Ilias, Harson, Rahman and Yasoa (2008). Although the influence of demographic factors has been examined in various contexts and purposes, there appears to be a significant gap in the literature on how demographic factors affect the way international students evaluate service quality. One important demographic factor is "nationality". It is important to establish whether students from different countries have similar ways of perceiving and evaluating service quality. Similarly, other demographic variables such as age, gender, level of study and so forth can play a role in the process of evaluation of service quality. In brief, the role that demographic factors play in impacting on the expectation and perception of service quality is a critical area of investigation.

Thus, this research is to find out the moderating role of demographic factors in the process of motivation, expectation, perception and satisfaction of international students pursuing higher education in Singapore.

1.2 Literature Review

Many studies have tried to establish the impact that consumers' demographic factors may have on their perception of service quality across a wide range of services such as retailing (Gagliano & Hathcoste, 1994), health care (Al-Khalil & Mahmoud, 2012), banking (Ramez, 2011; Gupta & Bansal, 2011), transport services (Ganesan-Lim et al., 2008), telecommunication (Chih, Tang, & Chen, n.d.) etc. While some researchers conclude that service quality is perceived differently by consumers according to their demographic backgrounds, there are also findings that do not confirm the crucial role of demographic factors. …

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