Understanding of factors
This research is focused on understanding of factors that influencing Chinese overseas students' higher education decision-making process in selecting UK universities. This research will test these hypotheses that influence Chinese students' decision - making behavior in selecting UK universities.
According to HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), the higher education sector in the UK has grown dramatically during the last eighteen years with the percentage of both home students and overseas students entering Higher Education (HE) increasing from 14 percent in 1990 to 45 percent at the present. In 1992/93 this 'export' of Higher education generated £310m in fees (Greenaway and Haynes 2003). In 1994 there were approximately 42,300 overseas undergraduate students studying in the UK (HESA July 1995). According to the HESA (2007/08) report, there are 178,905 postgraduate students and 705,700 undergraduate students in the UK in 2008. The attractiveness of this income has not gone unnoticed here or abroad and has resulted in increased competitive activity not only between the UK institutions but also happens in USA, Australia, etc.
Decision-making is an important consumer behavior theory and have got significant attention in all areas (Schiffman and Kank, 2007). Decision-making process is widely used in all marketing activities, like business and commercial fields, and also in HE education markets. Maringe and Carter (2007) indicate that in education and HE area, a student make a education decision will follow the following processes: pre-search behavior, active search behavior, the application stage, making the choice decision, and the post acceptance behavior. Pre-search behavior is about early information search and passive thought for student future studying. Active search behavior is the stage that student has already short list choices. The application stage is that student send application to the choose institutions. Making the choice decision is the stage that student choose to accept or decline the offer that they get. Post acceptance behavior is the stage that student rethink the decision that they make is right or wrong for them.
According to the China's education department (2004) that the total population of Chinese overseas students is about 700 thousand between 1987 and 2003, and about 173 thousand have returned back China, which is means China is the largest source country of overseas students in the world nowadays. Moreover, According to the China's education department (2006), the main destinations of Chinese overseas students are: UK, America, Australia, Germany, Canada, French, Japan and Russia.
The application of marketing theory has developed in the HE sector as the increasing numbers of institutions with the title of University compete for overseas students. Therefore, it needs to examine the students' HE decision making process that in order for any HE institution and HE recruitment agency to market itself successfully to HE sector as Mackay and Yorke (1994), Long and Tonks (1995) researched that an overseas students follows. According to Maringe and Carter (2007) research, higher education decision making for international students is a high stakes process.
China gradually opened its gate to western education in 1847, Rong Hong who went to America to study as the first Chinese overseas student. Since the middle of 20th century, the People's Republic of China sent students studying abroad as soon as it inaugurated, and along with the China's economical development, more Chinese students got more chance going overseas to study who are self-supported overseas students. Furthermore, they are the majority of Chinese overseas students at the present (Yao, 2004). Due to the overseas HE market developing, the higher education agencies are also growing fast. McGrew and Wilson (1982) point out that intermediary body is build on the students' needs and large requirements for higher education opportunities.
Williams (1995) points out higher education market is build on the supply and demand of student education that both in undergraduate and postgraduate sections it also involves academic and professional staffs and their researches and scholarships. Besides, higher education market provides contribution to its stakeholders like local communities, all kinds of industries and commerce communities (Le Grand and Bartlett, 1993), specifically, higher education market/ industry not only provides knowledge transfer to these stakeholder groups but also it stimulates economic development (both local and nation). Higher education industry affects almost all of us-as students, parents, employees, employers, and citizens or as beneficiaries of scientific, medical, and technological research. Its significantly offer many opportunities to the society from top to bottom (Weisbrod, Ballou and Asch. 2005).
There are 166 higher education institutions and 116 universities in the UK (Universities UK, 2009). In the western countries, the business of student migration and studying abroad is a continuous increasing business and has been a multi billion pound business (Maringe, 2006).
The missions for Higher education marketing that include two sectors: non-profit aimed mission that is called "social mission" (Geiger 2004). American higher education today embraces three overarching social missions such as: teaching, research and public service (Kirp 2003), settle all those social missions for higher education in order to encourage internal economic and domestic education level. On the other hand side. Just like in the private market economy, the fundamental goal/mission of firm in any industry is to make profit. Although there are many non-profit aimed Higher Education Institutions exist, majority of Universities in the UK are profit-aimed for recruitment Overseas Students, be specific, Chinese students and Arabic students (Weisbrod, Ballou and Asch 2005, Tan and Simpson 2008).
Birch (1996) find out from his research, that UK is facing a high level competition in the HE market although it has good academic reputation. According to James et al (1999), universities have to face more intensively competition to recruitment students in the higher education markets, and especially in some developing countries. Maringe (2006) point out that a clearly understanding of applicants' decision making process and their choices is very useful to understand the UK HE market.
Long and Tonks (1995) claim, there are some directions in the HE market in the UK. First, universities are seeking more funds from private sources. Second, the tuition fee is increasing. Third, universities are competing on students who get bursaries and have to pay tuition fee themselves. Fourth, the guides from official and commercial sponsor are increasing. Higher education student marketing today is caught up in conflicting political pressures that are increasing relying on it to solve economic and social problems, colleges and universities are called on to expand their already broad missions and make college education available for oversea students, specially, non-EU students (Weisbrod, Ballou and Asch. 2005).
At the present, the UK higher education system has moved in these HE market directions: the criteria for university title have been liberalized; the level of the tuition fee has been raised and institutions are free to compete both on the fee and on student bursaries; the level of the fee has moved closer to the average cost of tuition, there are increasing numbers of both officially sponsors and commercial guides to quality. Institutions have increased incentives to raise fund from private sources (Higher Education Policy Institute, March 2009). The UK government tended to brand higher education and sell it to the world through British Council (Hemsley-Brown and Goonawardana, 2007). The UK government announced in 1999 to re-brand the UK universities, which would attract more international students.
1.2 Rational for the project
There is a strong rationale to research on this project. First, HE market is an increasing and valuable market in the world, the question of how to make bigger and bigger sales in this market is an important issue to address. Second, decision making process is a very important part in consumer behavior for students to choose universities in HE market, the question of how to influence more students to choose the UK universities is an issue that need to be tested. Third, as the HE sector statistics saying Chinese students is a big market for UK universities, the how to attract more Chinese students to study in the UK is been confirmed as a very important and urgent issue to be addressed. This research will confirm the impact on Chinese students' decision making process for universities choosing; also provide recommendations on actions for universities to attract more Chinese students and build a stronger relationship between Chinese students and UK universities.
1.3 Research objectives and hypothesis formulation
This research will indicate four objectives, which will drive the research design and methodology. The key research objectives of this paper are:
- What motive Chinese students to study abroad?
- What factors affect Chinese overseas students in selecting Coventry university?
- How do Chinese students make decision between alternative UK university offers?
- How satisfy are Chinese overseas students with their enrolled in Coventry university?
- Depending on different age groups, analyze different factors influencing on Chinese students on studying in the Coventry university.
From the above research objectives, it is now possible to formulate the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis One: family opinion and Chinese students' decision making behavior in the UK HE market
Hypothesis Two: friends and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market
Hypothesis Three: Education agency and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market
Hypothesis Four: family annual income and and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market
This chapter provides research objectives and formulation of hypothesis. This chapter features the importance of Chinese students in HE market. From the related theories and concepts, it indicate that decision making process directly influence Chinese students to choose universities.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1 Motivations study abroad
The motivations of consumers influence student decision making process on the need recognition and problem awareness stage which is the first step, and it always triggers the purchase decisions (Fill, 2006). According to Mittal, etc. (2008), motivation is the driving force for human to obtain a specific goal. A drive is a force or energy, and a goal is something that the person wants to achieve. Schiffman and Kanuk (2007) define motivation is a psychological force for individuals that effect them to act. The consumer thinking process and previous learning is the basis of the specific goal that the consumer wishes to achieve.
According to Schiffman and Kanuk (2007) personal needs can be divided into innate needs and acquired needs. Innate needs are also considered primary needs, which include the needs for air, food, water, sex, clothing, and shelter. Acquired need is also named secondary needs, which include the needs for power, learning, prestige, affection and self-esteem. In this research, the needs about Chinese students study abroad is one kind of acquired needs or secondary needs. In the Maslow's theory, there are five needs categories, including: physiological needs, safety and security needs, belonging and love needs, esteem and ego needs and self-actualization needs (Mittal, etc., 2008).
The problem awareness is most likely depends on students & their sponsors own resource which suit or not suit with the entry requirements of a UK University and a HE recruitment agency such as their financial background, language levels and their expectations (Athiyaman, 1997 and Fallon 1996). A case study by Yao (2004), it indicates the huge efflux surge of Chinese overseas students come from several aspects: Improved economical states, Avoiding the competition of domestic higher education, Avoiding the competition of employment, Traditional conception, Transferring illegal money, Government support, International education promotion.
According to Nguyen (2009), the majority of universities and colleges in china are funded and run by Chinese government, and also they are directly controlled by Chinese government. The teaching method in China is still teacher-centered. Almost in all the classes, students only can do is sitting and listening, and they don't have chance to think and do their own research. When universities in China select students to for further study, it still adopts the university entrance exam model.
Tan and Simpson (2008) point out that what the critical factors are taken into overseas students' motivations when studying overseas: Administrative support, Academic staff quality, Qualification integrity, Curriculum quality, Campus quality and Personal compatibility. Besides, there are intrinsic logic relationships among all those steps and they are connected with consumers' motivation (Yeshin, 2006). Therefore, in this specific HE sector. Especially, the motivations of oversea students play a significantly role in the first step.
Tan and Simpson (2008) suggest that overseas students' motivation for choice a University that can be divided into three sections: first one, University element: they consider about the quality of service & facilities of a University that all about "Physical environment", such as: Availability of facilities and equipment , Quality of other support services, Sufficiency of facilities and equipment, Quality of library support services, Modernity of facilities and equipment, Quality of international student office support and Safety of the campus. The second section is that those students were consider about the Academic quality of the University such as Academic Ranking of Nation & World Universities, Performance of teaching staffs, Communications skills of academic staffs, Friendliness and helpfulness of academic staff, Practical experience of academic staffs, Special expertise of them, Theoretical qualifications of academic staffs and Quality of courses. Third is Personal element: these students consider about the personal compatibility which links with the University's requirement, such as: Level of English language entry requirements, Level of academic entry requirements, Flexibility of entry requirements, and the Quality of On-campus social life.
I would like to apply motivation concept (Mittal, etc., 2008) and Tan and Simpson (2008) suggestions for overseas students motivations to this research, because motivation is the first step in the decision making process and recognition of studying in universities. And this concept will be used in the design of my questionnaire to form the question "why do you study abroad?". The benefit of doing that will help universities to know the reason that students go to universities, and universities can act from the first step.
2.2 Information search for of students
Information search is a kind of procedure that consumers seek out information about alternatives to assist his decision making (Lin and Chen, 2006). Information search can be divided into internal and external information search (Chao and Gupta (1995).
Internal search is that consumer search from memory about product-related information. Internal search is fast (Mattila and Wirtz, 2003). When the information that consumer is searching for is not from consumer memory, external information search happens. Heaney and Goldsmith (1999) defined that external information search is a conscious goal-oriented behavior that the consumers look for information in order to differentiate or value a specific product or brand.
The medium of information in this sector, students not only gain information from agencies or universities, but also they tend to use other information sources (Tonks and Farr 1995), such as:
- Personal sources: family members, friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances with past experience etc (Mittal, etc., 2008)
- Marketing stimulate inform sources: advertising, etc
- Public sources: newspapers, radio, television, consumer organizations (Overseas students' Internet-Forums), specialist magazines, education agencies etc. The students can directly get the information through attending exhibitions, enquiring on the phone or internet, asking intermediaries for example career advisors, and requesting from British Council (Mortimer, 1997).
Becher and Kogan (1992) indicate that intermediary bodies which meet social and economic needs in higher education field, and intermediary bodies occupied positions that which associate with governmental education system (including governmental education department and universities). There are many channels to deliver the information to students, for example an international booklet can be distributed through post, internet, intermediaries etc. Mortimer (1997) researched the following factors on students' decision making process through 50 institutions: personal letters, overseas student booklet, overseas leaflet, entry requirements, fees, accommodation booklet and application form.
Mortimer (1997) point out information search is the first stage in students' decision making process, after the students recognize the needs. This is an important prerequisite for students to identify and evaluate alternatives when they are processing decision making.
I will use many concept mentioned above, for example internal search and external search, Tonks and Farr (1995) talk about information sources, and Becher and Kogan (1992) indicate intermediary bodies, to this research, because these concept will guide this research on information search on decision making for Chinese students. These concepts will be used to design my questionnaire to form "why do you choose the UK to study?", "do you apply university yourself or third parties?", and "how do you think about education agency?", the benefit of doing that include universities clearly understanding of how Chinese students do information search when they apply universities abroad and help universities to expand the accesses to Chinese students.
2.3 Students' choice criteria
Maringe (2006) claim decision-making research also can be divided in to three levels in the HE market. The first level is global level, which is for consider about the question that why students go abroad to do further study. The second level is national level, which is about which higher education institutions that the student will choose in the destination country. The third level is which course the student will choose in that higher education institutions. According to the research on overseas students in the USA how they process decision making when they choose universities, Stewart and Felicetti (1991) conclude scholarship is the main reason for students to study in the USA. Also they are some other reason which is availability of information, how much influence on these people in their home country, course fees and availability of accommodations.
In international HE market, the students' decision-making process is affected by "push and pull" factors (Zimmerman, 2000). Push factors are about different barriers to the student original country, for example the lack of job opportunities, poor economic conditions, dissatisfaction with the government, especially in developing countries. Pull factors are the developed countries advantage which can attract international students to their countries easily, for example: economic prospects, employment opportunities, safe study environment, safe political environment, part time work during the term time, opportunities to get different kinds of funding, international accepted qualification, and high standards education in host countries, the opportunity to work in host countries (Borjas, 1994).
According to the surveys in the UK to identify the needs of overseas undergraduate students before and during their course have been undertaken in both Southampton (Rogers and Smith, 1993) and Plymouth Universities (Cuncliffe, 1993). This analyzed the views of overseas undergraduate students from 82 HE institutions on their choice of UK University and their experiences while studying. Also it is supported by Allen and Higgins (1994) that majority of overseas students identified the most important factors when selecting a UK University and a HE recruitment agency as being the reputation, content of course ,entry requirements and the agency's price charged.
Within the HE sector, this supported by Mortimer (1997) that in order for HE recruitment agencies maintain their operations, the availability of useful information supply which can build students' trust and confidence, it is important to reach students and influence them to take an action.
Stewart and Felicetti (1991) researched overseas students in their initial choice of the countries in which to study and then which particular University, they found out that most oversea students tend to choice a university which they were satisfied with the information (fees, scholarship ,facilities, ranking of the university) that provided by HE recruitment agencies or provided by Universities. According to Maringe (2006), the most important factors those influence students to choose a university are university programs, university reputation, course tuition fee and living price and university location.
As Stewart and Felicetti (1991) suggest that provide more useful information can reduce the risk of handled level which caused by involvement level and the length of information research time. Furthermore, the overseas student decision making process as one which involved a high level of involvement resulting in an active search for information and acceptance of a small number of alternatives (Edgett and Cullen, 1993). This suggests that it is important for the HE institutions to provide suitable information and assistance at the original opportunity (Rogers and Smith, 1993). Besides, Fallon (1996) found out five specific areas of information were very important to overseas post-graduate students as following: course content, fees(tuition fees, the cost of fees from agency), pre-arrival booklet specifically for international students, advice on visa, customs, work permits, insurance, immigration, cost of accommodation available.
Hasan, etc. (2008) claim that from the result of their research, when students go through the evaluation of alternatives step in the HE decision making process, it is clear that service quality has significant positive relationship with a student's evaluation. It suggests that by improving good service quality, HE- recruitment agencies may potentially improve the students' satisfaction due to the fact that they have to compete to earn interest from the students to choice them to study at a University.
Students are influenced by many different factors to make a university and course choice. According to Maringe (2006), there are many factors having strongly connection when students are doing a decision-making process on university and course choice. First, career opportunities are one of the greatest factors that influence student to choose university and course. Second, teacher influence and interest are the next most influence factor for student to choose universities and course, especially in China. Most of Chinese student live in a close environment which is directed to concentrate on studying, and they do not have much information with other countries and universities. So this factor may improve to the most influence factor for Chinese student to choose international university and course. Third, how easy this course is for student still affect student, also means do they have ability to finish the course in university. Fourth, parents are also a very strong influence factor for student. Foskett and Hemsley-Brown (2001) indicate parental influence will decrease when children grow up.
According to the research on overseas students in the USA how they process decision making when they choose universities, Stewart and Felicetti (1991) conclude most students search information from college guidebooks, college prospectuses, and friends with relevant experience. In the service industry because the offer is intangible, students normally choose 'physical evidence' as a decision making tool. Due to study in university is a high involvement product, the student will adopt active information search and accept a few universities at the same time when they are processing decision making (Edgett and Cullen, 1993). Mortimer (1997) claim that it will positive effect students on decision making process if the institutions provide suitable information and assistance on the earliest stage.
According to the research undertaken by Allen and Higgins (1994) on 82 HE institutions in the UK, more than half respondents point out the following information were very important for overseas students:
- Course content
- Cost of accommodation availability
- Pre-arrival booklet specifically for international students
- Advise on visa, customs, work permits, insurance, immigration, bank account etc.
Rogers and smith (1992) find accommodation information is necessary for overseas students, and the following information which are important to students are pre-arrival booklets, course details, fees and visa details and some other areas. In the global context, English as a common language is more and more important than ever before. Inside China, English ability as student ability is judged by all the companies, enterprises, government and other organizations (Yao, 2004).
I would like to apply these concepts listed above, such as push and pull factors, intermediary bodies, factors that influence students etc., to this research, because these concepts can show how students compare alternatives between different universities. These concepts also are used in the design of my questionnaire to form "why do you choose Coventry University?", "what kind of agencies do you use before?" and why do you choose this course?". The benefit of doing that can clearly display how Chinese students choose from alternatives in decision making process to UK universities.
2.4 Purchase and post-purchase for Chinese students study in the UK
According to Jobber (2006) that Higher Education purchases is a High-involvement purchase action, which include high expenditure and personal risk, therefore after information research and evaluation of alternatives steps, students would consider about the price & cost of fees again (Price, Matzdorf and Smith 2003).
The final stage is the post-purchase evaluation of the decision (Bettman 1973). It is common for students to experience concerns after making a higher education purchase decision. This arises from a concept that is known as "cognitive dissonance". The student, having bought a services (a University), may feel that an alternative would have been preferable. In these circumstances that student will not repurchase immediately, but is likely to switch HE recruitment agency or University for future study next time (Stewart and Felicetti 1991).
To manage the post-purchase stage, it is the job of the HE recruitment agency to persuade the potential customer (students or their sponsors) that the University will satisfy his or her needs. Then after having made a purchase, the student should be encouraged that he or she has made the right decision (Demiray, Nagy and Yilmaz, 2007).
The definition of satisfaction is one kind of state that a person feel about how much experience performance or outcome can fulfil the person's expectation (Kotler and Clarke, 1987). Palacia, Meneses and Perez(2002) claim it is important for researcher to determine what students may expect before they enrol in the higher education, because the students' expectation happens before they enter the universities. Hasan, etc. (2008) agree that majority of former study about student satisfaction focus on the aspect of customer, there still lack research of standard definition of student satisfaction and a customer satisfaction theory for student. William (2002) claim it is very risky to consider students as customer and fee payer in HE market.
According to the research on 82 HE institutions in the UK, Allen and Higgins (1994) claim the most important factors that influence students to choose UK universities or colleges are academic reputation, entry requirements and course content. This research also point out the academic reputation of the institution is more important for established universities than new universities as student decision making process.
Lassar, Manolis and Winsor (2008) claim the SERVQUAL model and the Technical/Functional Quality framework are two most widely accepted perspectives on service quality. According to Gronroos (1984), service quality can be divided into three dimensions which are "the technical quality of the outcome", "the functional quality of the encounter" and "the company corporate image".
Hasan, et al. (2008) point out that it is important to verify here that from the researchers' regression analysis; two dimensions (service quality in HE recruitment agencies & Universities, and students' satisfactions) in service quality empathy and assurance are the most critical factor in explaining students' satisfactions. Whatever done to increase empathy and assurance in service quality therefore will help students to give better evaluation to their alternatives and it is triggered their purchase actions at all.
According to Ford, Joseph and Joseph (1999) research that compared the students in higher in the New Zealand and US about service quality in their study, they found in New Zealand the first rank is academic reputation, career opportunities, programme issues, cost/time, physical aspects, location and others; and in the USA the first is academic reputation, cost/time, programme issues, other, physical aspects and choice influences.
Former researches on service quality in HE often concentrate on academic, effective course delivery mechanisms and the quality of course and teaching (Atheeyaman, 1997; Griemel-Fuhrmann and Feyer, 2003; Hasan, ect. 2008). Kamal and Ramzi(2002) also suggest a attempt to research HE from the administrative perspective, which measure student perception of registration and academic advising across different faculties and other administrative service to keep service quality under positive effect.
According to Cronin and Taylor (1992), the new research about the association between service quality and customer satisfaction has become a hot topic. Some researchers agree that the overall service quality have a significant relationship with satisfaction (Bigne, Moliner and Sanchez, 2003; Ham and Hayduk, 2003).
I would like to apply these concept above such as high-involvement, students' satisfaction, education agency influence students on decision making (Demiray, Nagy and Yilmaz, 2007), etc. to this research, because this can accurately reflect how Chinese students purchase and post-purchase. Also these concept will be used to design of my questionnaire to form "how satisfied are you with education agency?", how satisfied is your studying experience in the UK?", the benefit of doing that will show universities that whether Chinese students choose UK universities again and whether they recommend to their friends.
According to the literature review, Chinese students are influenced by different factor on the different stages of decision making process to study abroad. This literature review also indicated education agency plays an important role on Chinese students when they decide to study abroad.
Chapter 3: Research Methodology
3.1 Research Philosophy
In this research, I formulated my research topic as "what factors influence on Chinese Students' decision making for study in UK' Universities". I clarified my research is based on Chinese overseas students in UK universities and how do they make the HE (higher- education) decisions in order to examine what factors influence the decision making.
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) examine the research philosophy contains a series of sub-methodology, such as philosophies, approaches, strategies, choices, time horizons, techniques and procedures. Besides, there are more bifurcation theories & component elements, thus Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2006) developed a theory which named "The Research Onion", the figure of research onion as following (figure no.1):
First of all, the outermost layer of the research onion as well as the philosophies layer that consists of ten research philosophies, such as: Positivism, Realism, Interpretivism, Objectivism, Subjectivism, Pragmatism, Functionalist, Interpretive, Radical humanist and Radical structuralist (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007).
In my research, I adopt both the Interpretivism and positivism as the philosophy combination of my research philosophies, by the reason of Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) summarize that management and business researches always mixed use these two research philosophies. Furthermore, the examination of both Interpretivism and Positivism' nature and advantages & disadvantages as following:
3.2 The Nature and Advantages of Interpretivism
According to Remenyi, Williams, Money and Swartz (1998) that the nature of Interpretivism is that essential for the researchers to get good understand difference in people throughout varies of internal and external factors. Besides, Von Wright (1971) point out that Interpretivism is an epistemology, and he also depicted that the epistemology clash is between positivism and hermeneutics. But just like Bryman and Bell (2003) define the Interpretivism position is that a term "given to a contrasting epistemology to positivism". Interpretivism has predicted that a method is essential that aspects the differentiation among humans,factors of behavior and objects of the social sciences and which is therefore needs the researchers to investigate "the subjective meaning of social action "(Grint, 2000., Hughes, 1990 and Bryman & Bell, 2003). In addition, Interpretivism can be divided into two intellectual sections: phenomenology and symbolic interactionism (Denzin, 1989).
Advantages of Interpretivism in marketing & management research, according to Bryman & Bell (2003) that it can be more effective examine the significant difference between people in most of social actions. Hence, Robson (2002) suggests that researchers who adopt the Interpretivism position, they are more easily to gain the information from our daily social actions among people than rests of research philosophical positions. Besides, as Marschall (2001) organizes the Interpretivism epistemology is that researchers need to interpret the social events in accordance with the researchers & scientists own opinions. It is like that the researchers give set of meanings to these social activities & social roles, then the researchers can be able to do researching in people that based on this base line (Saunders, et al, 2007). Thus, it leads to the disadvantages of Interpretivism & argues.
Disadvantages and argue of Interpretivism are: The interpretive research method might be a disadvantage however; this is because the size of sampling: if the sampling size is smaller, it always causes a very unreliable research report & result, because of the interpretive research must be building on a sensible size of sampling (Kelliher, 2005). The another argue is about Interpretivism is tend to less effective in the modern society, according to Tashakkori and Teddlie (1998) that with the development of modern society as well as the situation of social actions & activities that been highly complex than ever before, thus the Interpretivism is tend to less effective in some rich complexity of social situations and Maylor & Blackmon (2005) agree with this point.
In conclude, however there are some arguments about interpretive research philosophy at the present, but just like Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) organize that interpretivist perspective has been play the unique role in the business and management research area, also, they point out although Interpretivism has some disadvantages, in such rich complexity of fields as Marketing, Human resource management and Modern Organisational behaviour, the interpretivist perspective can be effective if the sampling size and time horizon are sensible.
Therefore I adopt Interpretivism as one element of my research philosophy combination, because of I do consider about this research perspective from both positive and negative sides that based on a number of marketing writers' theories and findings.
3.3 The Nature, advantages and disadvantages of Positivism
According to Bryman and Bell (2003), the nature of positivism is an epistemological position that "advocates the application of the methods of the natural sciences" to the researches of reality of social events and beyond. Furthermore, Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) added that if the researchers adopt this research perspective, they must to use it to develop hypotheses on the research topic, and these hypotheses models will be tested and evaluated when researchers observing the research object.
Another important element of the positivism is that the researchers must sure the research project is undertaken and as far as it will takes (Remenyi et al, 1998). Positivistic philosophical systems are more likely taken to these principles:
- Only "phenomena and hence knowledge confirmed by the senses can genuinely be warranted" as knowledge Bryman and Bell (2003).
- Knowledge only can be gained by go through the gathering of social facts.
- The core propose of this kind of research philosophy is that the hypotheses should be tested and confirmed through the researching step.
Advantages of adoption of Positivism in business & management research field are: the main advantage is positivist method can be identified the social actions with in a way that called "value free" (Pugh, 1983). Moreover, it is suggests that the researchers should adopt highly structured method ways in order to facilitate replication, which is lend themselves (hypotheses and observations) get into statistical analysis process (Gill and Johnson, 2002). It is determined that positivism research way can help researchers gain more accuracy of information in social actions (Lewis and Thornhill 2007).
Disadvantages and Argues of positivism that including these sectors:
the main disadvantages of positivism method in use, as Remenyi (1998) and other writers point out that the reliability of the positivism research is most likely base on the researchers' personal characters, such as researchers feelings and their attitudes toward to the research objects (like some social issues and actions), so they believe that the accuracy of the finding of research can be interfered by researchers themselves.
The argument of Positivism is that like Horheimer (1972) and other theorists indicated positivism falsely represented people' social activities, because of they believed in Positivism ignored the observers role in the constitution of social reality, therefore positivism failed to reconsider the external factors (historical effects and random social environment) influencing on the representations of social actions.
However, like Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) organized that even there are some arguments with positivism philosophy in the research area, but it still can play very positive role in the business and management studies field. Therefore, these reasons are why I adopt both positivism and interpretivism as a research philosophy combination to my research in order to draw the strong points of others to offset each one's own weakness, and I believe in this way can help me to accomplish this project more effectively.
3.4 Research Approaches Design
In this section, according to Collis and Hussey (2003) that Research approaches can be divided into two main sectors as Deduction and Induction. Besides, as I mentioned before that the combination of positivism and interpretivism which I use it in my research, as Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007) indicate that when the researcher adopt positivist method that they should also use the deductive approach in order to help them to develop hypothesis theory and design a whole view of the research strategy to test and confirm the hypothesis. On the other side, Saunders and his colleagues (2007) indicate that when the researcher decided to use interpretivism philosophy that they need to adopt the inductive or deductive research approach in order to help them collect data and develop the research theories as the result of their data analysis. Hence, I adopt both inductive and deductive research approaches as the combination of my research approaches.
According to Easterby-Smith et al (2002) that inductive approach is a building theory which base on a small sample of subjects and it could be more appropriate rather than deductive approach with large size of sampling. Inductive approach also need researchers modify their research theory and hypotheses model in light of the research finding when if it necessary (Lewis and Thornhill, 2007). In addition, Easterby-Smith et al (2002) added that most of researchers would like to adopt qualitative data collection when they use the inductive approach on the topic.
Hence, I use both qualitative and quantitative data collection method in my project in the light of the combining research approaches (Inductive & Deductive) in order to fit to the combination of positivism and interpretivism in my project. The time control of my research will be an issue, so it is another reason that I use deductive approach with quantitative data collection in order to complete the project quicker, because of Hakim (2001) points out that it usually "the deductive research can be quicker to complete". On the other hand, inductive research can be more useful to help researchers gain accuracy data and unexpected information during the operational terms (Fowler, 1993), which is the main reason that I also adopt the inductive approach in my project.
3.5 Questionnaire Design
The questionnaire was customized for these different factors that influence Chinese students studying abroad on decision making process. This questionnaire includes open questions, closed-end questions, a point scale and five rating questions. The questionnaire was divided into five different parts:
First, the choosing questions in the top page aim to select right respondents. Second, the questions were designed to measure the need recognition stage in decision making process for students studying abroad. The third part aim to measure information search stage in decision making process for students studying in the UK.
The fourth part aim to measure alternatives stage in decision making process for students studying in the UK. The fifth part was use to evaluate the purchase and students' satisfaction for studying in the UK. In addition, this questionnaire also include respondents' demographic profile, for example family annual income.
3.5.1 Sampling plan
Elements: Chinese students in Coventry University.
Extent: Coventry University
3.5.2 Sampling frame
Population of Coventry University in 2009
3.5.3 Sampling size
This research's sample size was limited to 134 Chinese students in Coventry University. The sample size was also limited by the number of answers of questionnaires. Moreover, some answered questionnaires were also not included in this research such as questionnaires were not fully answered. 300 questionnaires were send to participants via email to personal contacts. In every email, there was a message to ask for help in the research and also request them to find more participants in the survey. However, there are only 134 returned answers. So the return rate of these questionnaires are 44.67%.
3.5.4 Sample techniques
The researcher adopted probability or representative sampling (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill) as the main sampling technique. The researcher also employed simple random sampling and a multiple selection technique.
3.5.5 Characteristic of the participant segement
- Bothe male and female.
- Chinese students in Coventry University
- Aged over 18 years old (this segment show respondents have ability to do their own decision).
3.6 Data analysis
The data analysis concentrated on different stage of decision making which were based either on theory or practice. The focus was to identify the important factors which impact Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK. Furthermore, education agency was also examined in this research to identify how it influences Chinese students on decision making process to study abroad. Finally, this research also analyzed the satisfaction of these Chinese students studying in the UK. The primary data which collected from questionnaires were analyzed by using Microsoft excel through the processes of preparation, editing, consideration of missing data and coding. The secondary data was analyzed to compare with the research findings. Depending on the comparative analysis, the secondary data will give recommendations or suggestions to universities on the important factors that influence Chinese students on decision making process.
3.6 Reliability and validity
Reliability refers to how consistent findings are with the data collection techniques or analysis procedures (Saunders, et al, 2007). The validity refers to the measures' degree of being free of error (Ghauri et al, 195).
Because of the following reasons the primary data in this research should be valid and reliable. First, respondents were guaranteed anonymity. Second, respondents can refuse to answer the questions. Therefore, if they felt uncomfortable for some questions, they can choose "do not know/refuse to answer". These factors support the assumption that the data from questionnaires could be treated as valid and reliable. However, researcher's faults and mistakes may lead invalidity of data.
The aim of this research is to find out what the important factors which influence Chinese students on decision making to study in the UK. This researcher used questionnaire to collect data. The questionnaire design was based on decision making process theories and other relevant studies. The research adopted descriptive patterns to analyze and explain these data.
This chapter displays and analyse all the findings from the survey. This chapter will show the research results through descriptive patterns. This chapter analyses collected data, and tests the research hypotheses.
4.2 Demographic results
300 questionnaires have been sent by email, and there were only 134 back. The respondent rates are 44.7%. The participants include 70 males and 64 females. The majority of the participants are between age 18-22(46%), followed by age 23-25(27%), age 26-30(15%) and age over 30(12%). Also the majority of the respondents are undergraduate students (41.8%), followed by postgraduate student (28.3%), foundation course (17.9%), language study only (7.5%) and PhD (4.5%). All the respondents of my survey are from Coventry university students.
Up to 40% of participants indicate their family income is between £10k-20k, followed by £20,0001-30,000(22%), £6,001-9,999(22%), £30,000-50,000(11%) and over £50,0001(4%). This also means that 78% respondents' family annual income are over £10,000 which are high income family in China. About 18% respondents' feedback indicate that their family have abroad experience.
Figure 1: Gender
Figure 2: Age
Figure 3: Family have abroad experience
Figure 4: Student level
Figure 5: Family annual income
4.3 T he relationship between age and the reason students study abroad
Depending on the research findings, the first three most important reasons that students study abroad are to obtain foreign study/working experience, with 54.01% of the contribution, followed by avoiding the competition of employment (41.79%) and family opinion (38.81%). However the reasons that students study abroad are difference when looking deeper into different age groups. These reasons directly affect student decision making on need recognition.
The participants aged between 18-22 years old think avoiding the competition of domestic higher education (61.29%) as the most important reasons whether they make a decision to study abroad, followed by family opinions (48.39) and to obtain foreign study/working experience (43.55%).
Most of the students aged between 23-25 years old choose avoiding the competition of employment (61.11%) as the most important reason to active need recognition stage in decision making for studying abroad, followed by to obtain foreign study/working experience (55.56%) and family opinion (36.11).
In addition, majority of the participants aged between 26-30 years old choose to obtain foreign study/working experience (75.00%) as the main reason to study abroad. The second most important reason for this subject in this age group is avoiding the competition of employment (55.00%). The third most important reason is family opinion (30.00%).
Finally, to obtain foreign study/working experience, with the contribution of 75.00%, is the most important reason for participants aged over 30 years old to active recognition of studying abroad, followed by avoiding the competition of employment (50.00%) and family opinion (18.75%).
4.4 The relationship between age and reasons students choose UK
This research results show that different reasons for different age group students to choose the UK as the study destination. In other word, the research result indicates how much the factors influence students on alternative evaluation for studying in the UK. The data in the above table indicates that the most important factor that influence students to choose the UK as study destination is English (76.87%), followed by education agency(55.22%). Also more than half of respondents indicate academic reputation (52.99%) and Quality of teaching (52.24%) are very important reasons for them to choose the UK to study.
The results indicate that respondents aged between 18-22 years old rely heavily on English (96.78%) when they make decision for study in the UK, followed by education agency (74.19%) and family opinions (56.45%). And all other reasons are under 50%. This also means the respondents aged between 18-22 years old rely on English, education agency and family opinions too much when they make a decision to study in the UK.
With regard to the participants aged between 23 and 25 years old, 83.33% of this age group respondents consider English is the most important factor which influence them to make decision to study in the UK. The next most important reasons for this age group are academic reputation (77.78%) and two years PSW visa after graduation (72.22%).
In addition, the results show that participants aged between 26-30 years old consider quality of teaching (80.00%) as the most important factor to make decision to study in the UK, followed by two years PSW visa after graduation (75.00%) and English (65.00%)
Finally, job respects, with the contribution of 81.25%, is the most important reason to study in the UK for participants aged over 30 years old. The second most important reason for the subjects in this age group is academic reputation (68.75%) and two years PSW visa after graduation (62.50%).
4.5 The relationship between age and why they choose Coventry University?
Base on the research results, it can be seen that the most important reason for student to choose Coventry University is job prospects, with 65.67% of the contribution, followed by campus atmosphere, safety of the campus, reputation of graduation as employees, which all are agreed by 62.69% respondents. There also over half participant claim quality of teaching (51.49%) and education agency recommendation (55.25%) are very important factors for them when they make decision between alternatives.
With respect to the participant aged between 18-22 years old, the research findings indicate that the most important factor for them when they make decision between alternatives is campus atmosphere, with 90.32% of the contribution, followed by safety of campus (77.42%) and education agency recommendation (74.19%).
These participants aged between 23-25 years old indicate the most important factor for them to compare alternatives about universities is job prospects (83.33%), followed by reputation of graduation as employees (77.78%) and quality of teaching (72.22%).
Similar to the participants aged between 26-30 years old, the first three most important factors for them to compare alternatives when make a decision to higher education are job prospects (85.00%), followed by quality of teaching (75%) and reputation of graduation as employees (70.00%)
Finally, the research findings indicate that respondents aged over 30 years old look at the academic reputation (75.00%) as the most important factor to compare with all alternatives about higher education institutions, followed by quality of teaching (62.50%) and job prospects (56.25%).
4.6 The relationship between age and reason why students choose their courses
The research findings indicate that age has a relationship to the different reasons to choose the alternatives courses in students' decision making process. The date in the above table shows that respondents aged 18-22 years old look at family opinion (80.65%) as the most important reason when they decide to choose courses, followed by career plan (74.19%) and education agency recommendation (67.74%).
In addition, the participants aged between 23-25 years old, the results show 86.11% of these respondents agree that career plan as the most important reason when they choose courses from alternatives, followed by study background (77.78%) and education agency recommendation (72.22%).
Similar to participants aged 26-30 years old, the data results also show career plan, with the contribution of 80.00 percent, is the most important reason that they think of when they choose courses from alternatives in decision making. The second most important reason for these respondents is study background (70.00%) and flexibility of entry requirements (60.00%).
Finally, the respondents show study background (81.25%) is their most important reason when they do decision making process on the alternative stage, followed by flexibility of entry requirements (68.75%) and career plan (62.50%).
The above results indicate that career plan (76.86%) is the most important reason for people to choose courses in decision making process. More than half of respondents also consider education agency recommendation (60.44%), family opinion (57.46%), study background (50.00%), and friends (50.00%) are very important factors when they make a decision on courses.
4.7 The students satisfaction at Coventry University
The results demonstrate that more than 50% respondents are very satisfied with the UK study, which choose 5 (15%) and 4 (43%). At the same time there are just a small number of respondents feel unsatisfied (10%) or very unsatisfied (4%) for studying in the UK. This can be related to post purchase stage in decision making process,
4.8 Percentage of respondents who use education agency to apply universities in the UK
According to the research findings, there are total 53.47% respondents apply universities in the UK involved with education agencies. The above chart indicate that the participants aged 18-22 years old, with 58.44% of contribution, rely on education agencies too much, followed by respondents aged 23-25 years old (25.97%). This results also show respondents aged 26-30 years old (9.9%) and participants aged over 30 (6.49%) are not affected too much when they make decision to universities.
4.9 The relationship between education agencies and Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK
This part will analyze education agencies through analyze open-ended questions in questionnaires. Although some respondents didn't answer the open-ended questions, the date collected from majority of respondents can still be sourced.
In response to the question about what they think about agency, most of the respondents give the following answers:
- "it's helpful to find university information" (10%)
- "it's helpful to find course information" (18%)
- "it's helpful to prepare visa application" (21%)
- "it's much easier to get in touch with universities" (10%)
- "they have good relationship with universities" (13%)
- "it's not worth to trust" (10%)
When asked about the questions that which kind of assistance they got from education agencies to respondents who really have experience with education agencies, they answer as following:
- "They help me everything, like university choosing, course choosing, visa applying, English test, university offer, and even accommodation booking etc." (16%)
- "they help me on university choosing" (12%)
- "they help me on visa applying" (26%)
- "they help me to get the university offer" (20%)
- "they help me to get into the university which is better than I wish" (15%)
The answers of what kind of agencies you use are following:
- "big companies which have good reputation in China" (15%)
- "small local education agencies" (5%)
- "agencies in the UK" (10%)
- "joint schools in China" (28%)
There are 45% respondents indicate that they would like to recommend their educations to their friend, they think "the assistant from education agency is very important and usefully especially for students' first application". Also there are 25% respondents don't agree with that, they think "the education agencies cannot help students too much and over charged", "student should apply universities themselves which is very useful for their further study".
From these answers as above it indicate that education agencies are playing a very important role when students make decisions to go study in the UK. The education agencies start to effect students decision making process on the second stage which are information search, and they will also affect alternative evaluation, purchase and post-purchase experience.
4.9 Research findings
According to the results of data analysis, the research found out the following points which mentioned in the hypothesis:
4.9.1 Family opinion and Chinese students' decision making behavior in the UK HE market
In the exploration of the results, a relationship between family opinion and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market was established. The literature part mentioned that family members are students' personal sources to gain information (Mittal, etc., 2008), while this research results indicate that family opinion influence Chinese students on need recognition, information search and alternatives. This also mean family opinion strongly influence Chinese students to study abroad.
4.9.2 Friends and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market
According to the results above, friends are a very important factor which effect Chinese students studying abroad on the decision making process which include need recognition, information search, alternatives, purchase and even post-purchase experience. Meanwhile in the literature part, the former researchers only indicate friends help students to gain information (Mittal, etc., 2008). There is a big difference between this research and former literatures; it may because friends have never been given enough importance in former research on Chinese students studying abroad.
4.9.3 Education agency and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market
The results from both quantitative research and qualitative research show there is a strong connection between education agency and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market. This kind of strong connection also prove that education agency positively influence Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market. The literature part indicated that HE recruitment agencies influence students from many different ways to take an action. So, education agency as an important factor that influences Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market has been confirmed.
4.9.4 Family annual income and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad
According to the quantitative research results on Chinese students in Coventry University, it indicates majority of the Chinese students studying in the Coventry University are focus on three family annual income groups, which are £6,001-9,999, £10,000-£20,000, and £20,001-£30,000. This research results indicate family annual income is a factor that influences Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad in the UK HE market. There is no mention in the literature review, which also means there are rare research between family annual income and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad. The relationship between family annual income and Chinese students' decision making behavior on studying abroad is still a new research area.
This chapter lists the research findings. The research shows that family opinion, friends, education agency and family annual income are all very important factors influence Chinese students on decision making process to study in the UK. Also this research indicates that there are other important factors influencing Chinese students to study in the UK, as following:
- To obtain foreign study/working experience
- Avoiding the competition of employment
- Quality of teaching
- Campus atmosphere
- Reputation of graduation students
- Career plan
This part is the last chapter of this research. The aim of this chapter is to conclude the findings, recommend and suggest the UK HE market and universities how to attract more Chinese students, and also explain limitations of the project, implication for practice and recommendations for future research.
The purpose of this research is to establish whether there is relationship existing between these factors listed above and Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK, to indicate the most important factors that influence Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK, and to recommend the UK HE market and universities how to attract more Chinese students.
The researcher adopted a questionnaire to collect primary data. The questionnaire was designed to measure how these different factors influence Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK.
The sources of secondary data are various, for example journal articles, textbooks, and newspapers. The secondary data combine with primary data to give the UK HE market and universities suggestions and recommendations about Chinese students on the decision making process.
The data analysis of this research focuses on the following aspects: family opinion, friends, education agency and family annual income, which were on the basis of theory or practice. This research findings show most of participants are male, with contribution of 52%, while female participants are 48%. Also the majority of the respondents are undergraduate students (41.8%), followed by postgraduate student (28.3%), foundation course (17.9%), language study only (7.5%) and PhD (4.5%). This research results show that demographic factors also effect Chinese students to study abroad, such as different age groups, different family annual income, and so on.
Base on the research findings, family opinion, friends, education agency, to obtain foreign study/working experience, avoiding the competition of employment, English, quality of teaching, Campus atmosphere, reputation of graduation and career plan are all very important factors which influence Chinese students studying in the UK. There different factors influence different stages of Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK. Depending on these steps, the suggestions and recommendations to the UK HE market and university can be described as below.
5.3 Suggestions and recommendations
5.3.1 Suggestions and recommendations for the UK HE market
According to the research findings and analysis, family and friends are most important factors that influence Chinese students' decision making on studying in the UK. The UK HE market should start from changing potential participants' family and friends' opinions through advertising, promotion, marketing strategy, pricing, and higher education agency. According the literature review and the data analysis, the UK HE market still have some strengthen, such as English, two years PSW visa after graduation, quality of teaching, and academic reputation.
5.3.2 Suggestions and recommendations for the UK universities
Quantitative methods are used to analyse the relationship between these factors and Coventry universities. According to the analysis of agency, it is a significant factor which influence Chinese students' decision making on studying in the UK. Hence the researcher recommend UK universities associate with big education agencies which have good reputation in China, and build more joint schools in China. The data analysis also indicate quality of teaching, campus atmosphere, and reputation of graduation students are key factors that influence Chinese students to study in the UK, the researcher suggests the UK universities improve their quality of teaching, campus atmosphere and at the same advertising their reputation of graduation students.
This research limitation was sample size, which only includes Chinese students in Coventry University, and also the selection procedure was not random selection. The participants may not answer some questions due to the research involved some private information.
5.5 Recommendations for future research
The aim of this research was to focus on what factors influence Chinese students on different age groups. Therefore, the future research topics can focus on different level that Chinese students are in, or different family annual income. For example, future research topics can investigate the relationship between family annual income the Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK. Moreover, the research results will reflect deeper and more detailed on each factor which influence Chinese students' decision making process on studying abroad. The future research also can investigate these factors with different sampling groups or even in another countrys.
This chapter highlights the importance of education agency that influence on Chinese students' decision making process on studying in the UK. In order to attract more Chinese students to the UK universities, this chapter provide some recommendations and suggestions. Thus, this chapter indicate future research can be deeper or investigated other sample groups or even other contries.
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