Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The value trade-off in Higher Education service: a qualitative intercultural approach to students’ perceptions

Danni Li, Martina G. Gallarza, Teresa Fayos Gardó


Purpose: Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have become a highly competitive market,
where consumers (i.e. students) are highly involved in their choices, and managers need to focus
on competitive edges. This paper aims to understand the factors that influence international
Master students’ choice behaviour and fulfil student expectations of customer value in HEIs.
Design/methodology: With qualitative information (five focus groups) collected from
international students (of 12 different nationalities) of several universities in Spain, UK and
China, the paper investigates the formation of customer value as a trade-off between benefits
and costs. This qualitative approach aims first at assessing this particular service through the
concept of value through verifying both the positive and negative dimensions of educational
service, and second, to comment on the intercultural aspects of this dual approach to higher
education consumption.
Findings: The results show different levels of benefits: the functional value generally comes
from infrastructures and good teachers that offer abundant practical experiences. The benefits
from quality education also derived from teamwork with the colleagues who possess equal
academic strength. Social benefits come from experiences outside the academic environment, working with people from different cultural backgrounds who have different perspectives.
Emotional rewards come from University reputation and relationships with instructors. Costs
of time and effort are differently seen across programs and vary widely upon nationalities and
cultural backgrounds.
Practical implications: Since the competitive environments of HEIS are fast becoming more
and more complex changing rapidly and dynamically, attention must be paid to International
students spreading positive or negative word-of-mouth out of their experience. Different values
of customers in different countries suggest that the strategy used by the corporation in a certain
country, may not be apply to another.
Social implications: The results of the study allow the industry to see the future prospects of
the meat sector and make the necessary changes. The results lead to improved transparency and
responsible behaviour.
Originality/value: Within the wide trend of research on students’ choice, this work has
focused on International Master Students, a public with relatively limited number of studies.
The contribution lays on a value-based approach as a trade-off focusing, as a step forward from
the traditional sociodemographic approaches, on behavioural variables (functional, social and
emotional values) and considering not just price but also non-monetary costs.

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