Importance‐performance analysis: a useful tool for directing continuous quality improvement in higher education

Martin A. O’Neill (Martin A. O’Neill is Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA.)
Adrian Palmer (Adrian Palmer is Professor of Services Marketing, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK.)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Publication date: 1 March 2004


This paper addresses the issue of service quality evaluation within the higher education sector and stresses the need to develop measures that are both psychometrically and practically sound. The paper argues that recent debate surrounding the development of such measures has been too strongly geared toward their psychometric performance, with little regard for their practical value. While the paper supports the need to develop valid, reliable and replicable measures of service quality, it is suggested that educators must not lose sight of the original purpose for which these measures were designed, i.e. their practical value in informing continuous quality improvement efforts. It critiques the use of disconfirmation models and reports on a study of students’ perceptions of quality using importance‐performance analysis (IPA). The technique allows specific failings in the quality of support issues to be identified and their importance to a quality improvement programme assessed.



O’Neill, M. and Palmer, A. (2004), "Importance‐performance analysis: a useful tool for directing continuous quality improvement in higher education", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 39-52.

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