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Projecting university brand image via satisfaction and behavioral response: Perspectives from UK-based Malaysian students

Sharifah Alwi (Brunel University, London, UK)
Norbani Che-Ha (University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Bang Nguyen (University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark and University of Shanghai, Shanghai, China)
Ezlika M. Ghazali (University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Dilip M. Mutum (University of Nottingham Malaysia, Semenyih, Malaysia)
Philip J. Kitchen (University of Salford Business School, Salford, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 15 January 2020

Issue publication date: 20 March 2020




This study attempts to ascertain the essential dimensions and components of university brand image, including the cognitive attributes (service/educational quality) and affective attributes (corporate brand image) of the university.


The study develops, explores and presents a student-consumer behavioral response model based on students’ experiences at university, exploring the relationship between these attributes with satisfaction and behavioral response [word-of-mouth (WOM)].


Findings reveal that both branding aspects – brand experience and corporate brand image – follow a rational thought process first before an affective component is then taken into account, resulting in brand promise and loyalty. The study identifies several important cognitive brand image attributes and experiences that guide brand positioning for the Malaysian market, linking these to satisfaction and WOM.

Research limitations/implications

It was conducted in a single case-university and future research could replicate this in other schools/institutions. Cross-validation to other private institutions lies outside the scope of this study. Furthermore, although the study has identified specific attributes of university brands, they tend to be seen or interpreted as overall for both brand experiences and corporate brand image attributes because of the reflective nature of the construct, and also they tend to be seen as higher order rather than at individual levels. Further research is needed to analyze these dimensions using a quantitative approach at individual levels and testing the conceptual model as presented in the conceptual model. The study is focused on one Asian market (Malaysian students in X University) chosen for its potential growth in the future.

Practical implications

The present study contributes to the identification of specific students’ needs and attributes including courses and modules, reputable schools, the environment (e.g. campus – near to lecturer, international), helpful lecturers and the university location. Addressing the right brand attributes enhance and clarify the positioning aspect of the university brand, while simultaneously addressing the needs and wants of consumers. For example, by understanding the culture – consumer buying behavior within this setting, marketers or school administrators can identify exactly, which behaviors could be changed and by which mechanism i.e. talking to sponsors, and introducing activities to increase visibility/image in Malaysia. Interacting with sponsors can influence them toward sending students to X instead of to other universities in the UK.


The study contributes to theoretical knowledge in at least two different ways: by identifying possible corporate brand image attributes and experience that guide brand positioning (for the Malaysian market), and by exploring the relationship between these attributes and satisfaction and behavioral response (WOM) as proposed in the study’s conceptual framework. The study has identified the specific attributes that influence Malaysian students’ early interest in selecting X University via, for example, a recommendation from existing students at X, their sponsors, employers, the courses or modules X offers and location – in London. The study further revealed that corporate brand image attributes of business schools (cognitively and effectively) enhance corporate brand differentiation and positioning (Rauschnabel et al., 2016).



Alwi, S., Che-Ha, N., Nguyen, B., Ghazali, E.M., Mutum, D.M. and Kitchen, P.J. (2020), "Projecting university brand image via satisfaction and behavioral response: Perspectives from UK-based Malaysian students", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 47-68.



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