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New applications for importance-performance analysis (IPA) in higher education: Understanding student satisfaction

Fraser McLeay (Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Andrew Robson (Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Mazirah Yusoff (INTI International College Subang, University of Hertfordshire, Subang Jaya, Malaysia)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The constantly evolving higher education (HE) sector is creating a need for new business models and tools for evaluating performance. In this paper, an overview of the importance-performance analysis (IPA) model and its applicability as a management tool for assessing student satisfaction in the HE sector is provided. The purpose of this paper is to apply IPA in a new and novel manner, undertaking analysis at three levels; the individual student, for individual attributes and at a construct or factor level which combines individual attributes that are correlated. A practical application is illustrated, assessing the gap between the importance placed on specific student satisfaction attributes and corresponding levels of student-perceived performance realised.


The “service product bundle” (Douglas et al., 2006) is refined based on focus group evaluation. Survey responses from 823 students studying across four Malaysian private universities are analysed using factor analysis and the IPA model utilised to identify importance-performance gaps and explore the implication of the iso-rating line as well as alternative cut-off zones.


Factor reduction of 33 original measurement items results in eight definable areas of service provision, which provides a refined and extended management tool of statistically reliable and valid constructs.

Research limitations/implications

The research is undertaken in a private business school context in Malaysia. Further research could focus on other universities or countries, as well as faculties such as computing and engineering or explore other elements of education-based performance.

Practical implications

The research method and study outcomes can support HE managers to allocate resources more effectively and develop strategies to improve quality and increase student satisfaction.


Distinct from other IPA-based studies, analysis is undertaken at three levels; the individual participant, for individual items and at the factor level.



McLeay, F., Robson, A. and Yusoff, M. (2017), "New applications for importance-performance analysis (IPA) in higher education: Understanding student satisfaction", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 780-800.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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