Competitiveness in Higher Education: A Need for Marketing Orientation and Service Quality

By Stimac, Helena; Simic, Mirna Leko | Economics & Sociology, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Competitiveness in Higher Education: A Need for Marketing Orientation and Service Quality


Stimac, Helena, Simic, Mirna Leko, Economics & Sociology


ABSTRACT. The aim of this paper is to determine the relationship between students' expectations at time of enrollment at higher education institution and their perception of different aspects of educational service quality received. Three Business Schools (Osijek, Croatia - EFO, Ljubljana, Slovenia - FELU and Szeged, Hungary - GTK) took part in this research which was based on SERVQUAL model. The higher education market in Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary was analyzed, the competitive ability of individual faculty was determined and the possible marketing strategies in order to improve their educational service quality.

JEL Classification : A23, M31, P2

Keywords: marketing, service quality, higher education, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary.

Introduction

Contemporary market, characterized by numerous and dynamic changes, requires that all companies and institutions develop capacities for quick and flexible reactions in order to survive and develop their competitive capabilities in the market they serve. Part of the evident market changes is related to the nonprofit and public sector and thus it also increasingly gets into focus of scientific research. One of the areas that are attracting growing scientific interest is higher education. Development of the knowledge society in the 21st century is characterized by broadening the boundaries of knowledge, shortening of the knowledge life cycle, and the emergence of new knowledge at a very fast pace. Therefore, learning is increasingly becoming a life-long process that never really ends. At the same time there is a growing competition between higher education service providers since the market is increasingly privatized. Private service providers, especially in higher education are playing an increasingly important role (OECD, 2010, p. 299). In such circumstances, higher education service quality becomes a key word for the service providers.

The more developed the country, the more emphasis it puts onto education and its role in economic and social development. Beneficiaries of the education service are constantly testing and evaluating its quality. It can be said that the higher level of development put more strict rules and expectations on education service quality (Funda, 2008, pp. 9,13). Besides, economic and cultural globalization has created new challenges for the higher education system since it requires global openness and knowledge exchange due to the fact that the labor market is increasingly becoming liberalized.

In order to create a competitive market position for a higher education institution in such circumstances it is necessary that it adopts marketing concept and philosophy and creates its strategy and activities in terms of market performance: it is necessary to focus on beneficiaries'' needs, market segmentation, competition, market positioning and new products/services development that are based on identified market trends (Leko Simic & Carapic, 2008, p. 8).

Higher education

As education becomes increasingly important in terms of economic and social development, there is a growing pressure from different stakeholder on its performance - labor market requires adaptation of program curriculum to the changing needs of the labor market, laws and regulations are constantly being adjusted to better fit the international requirements, etc. International certifications and recognitions are becoming an important tool for quality assurance of institutions of higher education.

The paradigm that higher education is not a cost but highly profitable investment is increasingly accepted, in governments that position it as a national priority and in public in general. In OECD countries 29% adults on average has completed only primary education 44% secondary education and 28% higher education. Together with Japan and USA they have almost half (48%) of the world highly educated population (OECD, 2010, p. 27).

Knowledge today is being treated as the key factor of economic growth, and ability to create and follow new technological development in developed economics. …

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