The purpose of this paper is to develop a perspective that ethical practices in higher education institutions can be a powerful tool for branding and attaining competitive advantage. The paper proposes that an ethical institutional brand can be built on the basis of just and fair practices at the institution, and quality admission and assessment processes.
A survey was conducted in seven different higher education institutions in and around Delhi NCR, India. The data were collected from 167 respondents through a self‐constructed questionnaire based on a five‐point Likert‐type scale. The reliability of the data was computed to have a Cronbach's α of 0.83.
The key findings of the research show a relationship between the perception of the respondents towards the quality of admission process and the development of an ethical institutional brand (r=0.284, p≤0.01). They also show that with just and fair academic processes, an ethically strong institution can be built (r=0.411, p≤0.01) and development of an ethical institutional brand will lead to attaining competitive advantage in the academic world (r=0.558, p≤0.01). Also, the perceptions of undergraduate‐ and postgraduate‐level students on the different variables of ethical practices leading to brand building are found to vary.
The sample chosen for the study was taken from Delhi, NCR, and hence does not incorporate the perception of students from Tier II and Tier III cities. Apart from this, the social desirability factor of the respondents (as applicable to all survey research) may also be one of the important limitations that may affect the research findings.
The study is a step forward in establishing a higher education system where ethically branded institutes will have an edge over others. The research may add key value for educational entrepreneurs who wish to establish an educational institution, helping them to work towards long‐term competitive advantage. This research endeavour is of help to policy makers, management of institutions, faculty, students and for the improvement of society as a whole. It is an attempt to explain the role of ethics in sustaining long‐term competitive excellence rather than a cutting edge for short‐term gains. It is practically of greater use in understanding the education industry scenario in the context of India, which has seen its education sector grow from philanthropy to being a business.
This paper identifies the need to rethink on the ethical functioning of institutions in the dramatically changed business environment of higher education in India. It is probably the first attempt to highlight the importance of ethical practices in higher education, and tries to draw a relationship between these practices and building the brand of higher education institutions. In light of the Education Bill passed in India, which gives great emphasis to ethical practices, the study is of pertinence to all who are willing to establish institutions or compete in the sector of education.
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