Higher education marketing


International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 2 March 2010



Hemsley-Brown, J. and Lowrie, A. (2010), "Higher education marketing", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 23 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijpsm.2010.04223baa.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Higher education marketing

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Public Sector Management, Volume 23, Issue 2

About the Guest Editors

Jane Hemsley-BrownPrincipal Researcher and Senior Lecturer in Marketing in the School of Management, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. Jane previously worked in the School of Education, at the University of Southampton, UK, as Senior Researcher and Lecturer; and as a Principal Researcher with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) Slough, UK. Jane is the author of over 70 papers and articles on education decision making and choice in education markets and is the co-editor of the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education with Dr Anthony Lowrie of Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Minnesota USA.

Anthony LowrieBefore taking up a post as Associate Professor of Marketing at Minnesota State University, USA, was an ESRC research fellow at the Judge School of Business, Cambridge University, where he had previously undertaken a PhD in the subject area of marketing higher education. He has published on branding higher education, the promotion of relevance in higher education, accreditation of business schools and research networks. He is co-editor of the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education with Dr Jane Hemsley-Brown.

In the light of the growing importance of higher education markets, marketing and marketisation around the world, we were delighted to receive so many papers with so much international interest that reflects the pluralist nature of higher education. The papers comprising this special issue were developed from papers presented at the third International Conference on Higher Education Marketing (ICHEM) held at Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, in April, 2008. Authors from 13 countries around the world participated in the conference and the best papers were selected for this special issue. All papers were subject to a double-blind peer review and authors were required to make revisions and modifications to their original submissions based on reviewers’ suggestions and had to meet the remit of the International Journal of Public Sector Management author guidelines while offering new understanding, perspectives or evidence in the specific field of higher education marketing. The selected papers included in this special issue highlight the increasing importance of plurality, variation and difference within the sector. The papers focus on the following topics: student-customer satisfaction with higher education; perceptions of educational value; values and graduate career choice; and defining a successful university brand.

The first research topic, student-customer satisfaction, is an important focus for both scholars and practitioners and is the topic of the first two papers. Higher education institutions across the world are increasingly regarding higher education as a business-like service industry and students are increasingly seen as consumers of higher education services. This in turn is leading to substantial interest and focus on measuring student satisfaction and in identifying the key factors which contribute to high levels of satisfaction.

In the first paper, Gruber et al., report on a study carried out in Germany to investigate how students perceive the services offered at a German university and how satisfied they are with these services. The results show that students’ satisfaction with their university is based on a relatively stable person-environment relationship. While satisfied with the atmosphere among students and the services offered, students tended to be dissatisfied with the university buildings, quality of the lecture theatres and physical surroundings, indicating distinct dimensional differences to student satisfaction. The most interesting aspect of this paper to academics and practitioners is the development of what may be an important new survey tool measuring satisfaction specific to the higher education servicescape. No doubt we will see further developments of this new instrument from these authors.

The second paper is based on research in Romania, authored by Munteanu et al. and Anton and investigates differences in student satisfaction across different programs of the same business college in order to identify the dimensions underlying overall perceived quality. The authors argue that in comparison with similar studies developed in western universities, the list of critical incidents contains significant differences; highlighting once again the noticeable differences in the higher education service sector across regions, institutions and student dimensions. The authors found that students with different academic performance raise concerns about different types of critical incidents. Overall satisfaction with educational experience among students studying different disciplines and with high and low achievement are also significantly different: more evidence to support the view that higher education is a multi-dimensional and pluralistic environment that is highly affected by cultural, socio-economic and achievement variations. More generally, the findings suggest to some that it is unlikely we could find universal management tools for the effective management and improvement of the sector: there is no single best approach. Others of course will argue that more research and work is required before this conclusion could be reached. Nevertheless, the importance of difference and variation appears to be significant.

The following two papers focus on value expressed as a means through which competitive positioning is achieved and is consistent with the view that market orientation is an important driver of marketing strategy in all settings, including higher education. In the third paper the authors, Ledden and Kalafatis argue that to their knowledge the research reported in their paper represents the first examination of value as temporal in nature. The results provide empirical support for value as a dynamic phenomenon that is differentially influenced by cognitive and affective variables. The differences found among students surveyed early in their post-graduate programme, compared with their perceptions mid-way through their course provide valuable insights into students’ views and interpretation of the value concept over time.

In the fourth paper, authors Añaña and Nique from Brazil and France respectively, focus on the personal values predominating in different academic disciplines among a student sample at a Brazilian university to assess possible relationships between human values and choice of a graduate career. The five value dimensions were identified by the authors and value scores were used to map the findings to permit a better comparison across a wide range of social science, engineering and medical careers. A striking comparison is illustrated through mapping these values and provides a visual indication of the widely differing values held by students studying different disciplines. Once again, we see the occurrence of difference and “lack of uniformity” as a key aspect of the sector under investigation.

The fifth and final paper provides insights into an increasingly topical issue among practitioners and academics: institutional branding. Chapleo from the UK employs qualitative research techniques to examine what opinion formers in HE institutions perceived to be “successful” in terms of brand management. Branding UK HEIs has been a contentious issue: some still question the value of branding as a concept and its applicability to the HE sector, and challenge the seemingly inevitable marketisation and the quasi-commercial service industry approach that is rapidly gaining a hold throughout the world. Nonetheless, Chapleo’s paper identified some key attributes associated with the contentious issue of successfully branding universities and provides suggested forms of measurement for future research. The editors would add that given the plurality of interests of university faculty from a wide range of disciplines it may be over ambitious to expect a unified view of a university brand. As insinuated by the author, there is much research still to be conducted on the identity of universities and how such a plurality of identities is to be managed. Much controversy in that subject is still to be aired and debated we suspect.

The five papers selected for this special issue cover some of the current preoccupations in the field and they highlight the sense of difference and plurality across the sector. We find such discoveries of differences and pluralities encouraging and look forward to further research in this context. There remain, of course, a great many other equally important research areas in higher education marketing yet to be investigated particularly in the context of emerging international markets and the increasing effects of globalisation.

We would like to thank colleagues and conference delegates for sharing their ideas and for the thoughtfulness with which they have presented their papers. We urge practitioners and scholars alike to read the papers in this special issue and form their own conclusions.

Jane Hemsley-Brown, Anthony Lowrie

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