This paper aims to explore the process that undergraduates go through in selecting universities and courses in the context of an increasingly marketisated higher education (HE) where students may see themselves as consumers.
The process students go through is examined with reference to the services marketing literature and using a qualitative, phenomenological approach with students encouraged to focus on their lived experiences.
Notable was the reported inexperience of students who suggest an apparent focus on peripheral rather than core aspects of the HE service offering and therefore aim to quickly make “safe” choices. Also there is evidence of “satisficing” and of avoiding risks and choosing options which “feel right” rather than following a more systematic decision‐making process which might be expected for such an important decision. Also noted was a tendency to defer the decision to others, including the institutions themselves, and their increasingly seductive marketing approaches.
The study is based on a vocational university with a focus on subjects for the new professions (marketing, journalism and media production). Further studies might consider how far the findings hold true for other types of subjects and institutions.
The paper considers the implications of these findings for universities and their marketing activities, and invites them to both re‐evaluate assumptions that an informed and considered process has taken place, and to further consider the ethics of current practices.
The paper's focus on the stories provided by students provides new insights into the complexities and contradictions of decision making for HE and for services in general.
Haywood, H. and Molesworth, M. (2010), "The uncomfortable mix of seduction and inexperience in vocational students' decision making", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 831-846. https://doi.org/10.1108/02634501011086445Download as .RIS
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