A case study of a Kulliyyah

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Introduction

Beaver (1994) affirmed that university and college administrators see implementation of quality management practices as a way to reassure that institutions perform well and hence the customers of higher education are being well served (Sohail and Shaikh, 2004). As a result many institutions of higher learning embarked on quality management practices such as quality assurance management system and the implementation of Kaplan and Norton's ( ) Balanced Scorecard. As quoted by Brochado (2009), the role of service quality in higher education has received increasing attention during the last two decades. The use of the most appropriate measurement tool would help managers to assess service quality provided by their institutions, thus having the ability to use the results to enhance the service quality and service delivery. Further, Firdaus (2006) reiterated that although researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to service quality, there are still unresolved issues that need to be addressed and the most controversial one is measurement instrument for service quality in higher education institutions.

Quality means those features of "products" which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction (Juran and Gryna, 1988). Correspond to this early definition of quality, as quoted in Petruzzellis et al. (2006), AA.VV (2003) found the existence of strict link between customer satisfaction and service quality. Of late, service quality has been receiving much reputation because of its obvious relationship to customer satisfaction (Sureshchandar et al., 2002).

The main aim of this research paper is to examine the service quality status of one of the faculties as perceived by the primary customers, i.e. the students. Next, the study will assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each dimension of service quality (tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy) as proposed by Parasuraman et al. (1991). Eventually the findings of the study will be used by the management of the respective faculty to improve its service quality for its customer satisfaction.

Background of service quality evaluation in higher education

Students as customers

Globalized competition has stressed the strategic importance of satisfaction and quality in the encounter of winning customer preferences and maintaining sustainable competitive advantages (Petruzzelis et al. 2006). The higher the service quality, the more satisfied the customers, as based on their expectations and performance perceived of service quality (Johnston and Lyth, 1991; Ekinci 2004, 2004; Cronin and Taylor, 1992). As in higher education, who are customers? As emphasized by Tiebout (1956) and Baccarani (1999), university students are real customers where service quality can be tested by comparing quality expected, quality provided, and quality perceived. As mentioned by Firdaus (2006), a survey conducted by Owlia and Aspinwall (1997) construed that students were the primary customers in identifying the determinants of service quality from their perspective.

Appropriate measurement issues.

In contrast to the concept of quality products (or services) from quality "gurus" (Juran et al., 1988), Lewis and Booms (1983, p.100) first defined service quality as a measure of how well the service level delivered matches the customer's expectations. As more and more empirical works conducted by the service quality fraternity, further definitions were developed particularly by distinctive scholars such as Parasuraman et al. (1988), Cronin and Taylor (1992), Teas (1993) and others.

Since from middle of 2000s, service quality in higher education were still regarded as the front page issues as far as evaluation for service quality is concerned. Petruzzelis et al. (2006) for example, focused on the evaluation of student satisfaction in Italian universities and they suggested the university to concentrate its efforts on the improvement of teaching and non teaching services as well as to focus on adopting customer centric approach or strategy. At this point of time, the polemics on service quality evaluation in higher education arrived to a level of searching for the most appropriate evaluation instrument for serviced quality evaluation. Firdaus (2006) as an example put incredible effort to evaluate HedPERF and SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992) in determining which instrument had the superior measuring capability in terms of unidimensionality, reliability, validity and explained variance particularly in assessing service quality in higher education. Subsequently, the study proved a modified five factor of HedPERF was more appropriate scale for higher education sector.

In another effort, Carrillat et al. (2007) analyzed the validity of SERVQUAL and SERVPERF scales using meta-analytic view of 17 years of research across five continents. The purpose was to investigate the difference between SERVQUAL and SERVPERF's predictive validity of service quality in various service providers and discovered both instruments are equally valid predictors of overall service quality across all service industry. In addition, adapting SERVQUAL to the measurement context improves its predictive validity compared to SERVPERF. In another context, both scales gain predictive validity when used in less individualistic cultures non-English speaking countries. Subsequently Brochado (2009) conducted a vociferous attempt to evaluate simultaneously five alternative measures on service quality in higher education, SERVQUAL, importance-weighted SERVQUAL, SERVPERF, importance-weighted SERVPERF and recently developed HedPERF. In contextual environment, SERVPERF and HedPERF found to possess the best measurement capability in Lisbon University's measurement of service quality.

Measuring student satisfaction: the case of the Institute of Education

International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), since its inception (with 13 Kulliyyahs or faculties) twenty five years ago uses English both as its medium of instruction and the language of its administration. IIUM blends harmoniously modern and professional disciplines with traditional values and moral virtues. Its students originate from more than 90 countries representing nearly all regions of the world. IIUM operates under the direction of a Board of Governors with representatives from the eight sponsoring governments and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). It maintains and strengthening links with governments and institutions all over the world such as the League of Islamic Universities, the International Association of Universities and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. With a vision of becoming a leading international centre for educational excellence, the philosophy of the university was inspired by the recommendations of the first World Conference on Muslim Education held in Mecca in A.H. 1398/A.D. 1977: based on the Holy Qur'an five verses revealed to the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. (Al-Alaq, verses 1-5).

Guided by its mission, IIUM developed and applied several strategies and tactics to ensure the students' satisfaction with its service quality. The preparation of this paper comes as part of the strategies and tactics to improve and sustain service quality for customer satisfaction. It also acts as a complimentary to the present practice of Quality Assurance System MS ISO 9001: 2008 and Kaplan and Norton's Balanced Scorecard ( ) Hall of Fame. All these initiatives are bold attempts for the cause of IIUM customer satisfaction as a whole. Hence, the underlying issue is how satisfied are the customers particularly with regard to the students of this particular kulliyyah under studied. Thus, this paper only focuses on the service quality of the under studied kulliyyah of IIUM as perceived by its customers.

We are one of Malaysia's top education schools, delivering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in areas such as Islamic Education, Quranic Education, Arabic Language, English Language, Educational Psychology, Educational Administration, Educational Management, Counseling, Moral Education and Instructional Technology.

At INSTED, we strive for educational excellence by bridging the gap between educational theory and practice. We strive to inspire our students to develop lifelong learning skills and practical knowledge that will significantly enhance their future career and quality of life. We have produced quality graduates, local and international, who are able to give back to society. Many of our graduates have gone on to occupy a wide range of leading roles.

Currently we have a total of 38 academic staff, 18 administrative staff and over 800 students. We are strategically located on the IIUM's Gombak campus, which is just 25 minutes from the centre of Kuala Lumpur.

The Institute of Education (INSTED), IIUM offers a unique experience of an Islamic, integrated and international programme with an emphasis on comprehensive excellence. It provides up-to-date educational facilities - microteaching studio, computer laboratories, spacious classrooms and excellent research facilities.

The Institute comprises prominent scholars in various fields of specialization. Besides offering excellent academic programmes, the Institute also has specialized centers to complement it.

The Institute was established as a Department of Education on July 16, 1987 . It was set up to assist in meeting Malaysia 's need for graduate teachers. It offered the Diploma in Education programme to prepare teachers to teach in secondary schools. The programme began with 113 pioneer students directly under the charge of Deputy Rector. It offered the following subject specializations:

  • Islamic Education
  • Arabic Language
  • Malay Language
  • Commerce and Entrepreneurship
  • English Language

In 1989, in response to the need expressed by the Ministry of Education, a Board of Studies comprising members of the University's Department of Education and relevant authorities in the Ministry of Education proposed that a Master of Education programme be established providing concentrations in fives areas, namely:

  • The Teaching of Arabic to Non Arabic Speakers
  • The Teaching of Islamic Education
  • The Teaching of Quranic Education
  • Educational Administration
  • Guidance and Counseling

The IIUM Senate and the Educational Planning Committee of the Ministry of Education subsequently approved this proposal and the Master of Education Programme was launched in 1990.

Beginning in 1990, the Department of Education was placed under the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences as a department. In May 1997, the Department began offering a limited Bachelor of Education Programme in Arabic Language and Literature to upgrade the knowledge and skills of teachers from the Ministry of Education's Special Diploma Programme (KDPK). With emphasis on postgraduate and research programmes, the Doctoral (Ph.D) Programme in Education was approved by the Ministry of Education in 1999.

In its meeting on 8th March 1991 , the Educational Planning Committee of the Ministry of Education approved in principle the upgrading of the department into Faculty. However it was only in December 1999 that the University authority officially raised the status of Department to that of Institute.

In addition to the M.Ed and the Ph.D. programmes, INSTED also currently offers the Bachelor of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language (B.Ed TESL) and the Bachelor of Education in Teaching Arabic as a Second Language (B.Ed TASL) programmes.

Programmes and activities of the Institute of Education (INSTED) are founded on the principles contained in the philosophy of IIUM, which was inspired by the recommendations of the First World Conference on Muslim Education held in Mecca A.H. 1398 (A.D. 1977). The spirit of this philosophy is based on the Holy Qur'an , in particular the five verses revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, namely, Surah al-Alaq , verses 1 - 5.; Briefly, these principles are:

  • All interpretations of knowledge are based on an Islamic worldview of life, the Universe and Creation.
  • The basis for interpretation of all forms of knowledge is Tawhid and its manifestation in our way of life. Knowledge, therefore, shall be propagated in the spirit of Tawhid, which stipulates that Allah is the Absolute, the Creator, the Master, and the Cherisher of the Universe.
  • The ultimate purpose of knowledge is to lead man to the realization of his position as a servant of Allah and His Khalifah on earth, and to prepare him to fulfill these roles and be accountable to Allah with regards to his deeds and actions.
  • The interpretation and propagation of knowledge proceed from recognition of "wahy" as Divinely revealed which must take precedence over acquired knowledge.

Mission

To produce dedicated researchers, scholars, and educators to develop Islamic approaches in the construction of knowledge relevant with contemporary socio-cultural conditions.To foster research endeavors in various fields of education which will contribute towards the development of the nation and Ummah.

Vision

To become a renowned Islamic centre for education nationally and internationally, consistent with the vision of the IIUM.

The objective of the Institute of Education is to develop and refine the Islamic concept, theory, practice, and system of education which is capable of producing successive generations of Muslims who not only serve Allah faithfully and are committed to follow His guidance in all aspects of their life, but are also knowledgeable and skillful so as to bring benefits and avoid harm to themselves, mankind and the universe.

Specifically, through its programmes and activities of teaching, research and publication, the Institute of Education aims to produce all levels of professionals in education who are endowed with the following characteristics:

  • Proactive, critical, creative and innovative.
  • Subscribe in total submission to the command of Allah.
  • Committed to follow Allah's guidance in all aspects of their lives
  • Knowledgeable and skillful in applying various educational principles, techniques and technology
  • Able to carry out and are totally committed to the mission of developing and nurturing Islamic personality in their students.

Methodlogy

Instrumentation of the study: Modified SERVQUAL

In spite of the discussions and controversies in determining the appropriate measurement scale for service quality in higher education, the emergence of diverse instruments such as SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988), SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992), evaluated performance, EP (Teas, 1993) and HedPERF (Firdaus, 2006) have contributed enormously to the development in the study as well as to the literature of service quality. Hence, according to O'Neill (2000) there were overabundance of measurement tools and techniques aimed at assessing service quality and customer satisfaction levels in higher education. SERVPERF (Parasuraman et al., 1988) and SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992) in particular have attracted greatest attention although there were numerous critiques and debates about these two instruments (Firdaus, 2009).

Parasuraman et al. (1991, 1994) as the originator for SERVQUAL, presented illustration and supporting evidence in reaffirming SERVQUAL psychometric quality and its practical value. However, the SERVQUAL was still under long list of criticism of its validity across different industrial settings (Carman, 1990; Babakus and Boller, 1922; Buttle, 1999). Cronin and Taylor (1992, 1994; Teas, 1993, 1994) criticized the conceptualization and measurement of service quality and came out with their version of interpretation and measurements. In spite of disagreement over the "gap model" and the dimensionality of SERVQUAL across different industrial settings, researchers and practitioners seem to generally in agreement that 22-items scale are good predictors of overall evaluation of service quality by customers. The popularity of SERVQUAL is due to a number of advantages (Buttle, 1994) such as: it has accepted as a standard for assessing different dimensions of service quality, proved valid in some contextual situations, reliable, parsimonious, and it has a standardized analysis procedure to aid interpretation of results. Regardless of the vociferous criticism rose previously clearly indicate that there is still scope and needs for further research in the aspect of SERVICE QUALITY especially in the higher education (Sureshchandar, 2002). In addition, SERVQUAL is the best known instrument for service quality measurement (Ekinci and Riley, 1999) and it has been used to measure service quality in a wide range of service (Ingram and Daskalakis, 1999; Palmer, 2001).

Parasuraman et al. (1988, 1991, 1993) devised a "Gap analysis model" and defines service quality as the degree of discrepancy between customers' normative expectations for the service and their perceptions of service performance. Subsequent empirical work based on exploratory research yielded SERVQUAL, a 22-scale that measures SERVICE QUALITY along five factors or dimensions forms the cornerstone on which all other works have been built. The five dimensions of SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988, 1991, 1993), definitions and items are listed and defined in the following Table 1.

Jabnoun and Khalifa ( ) stressed, psychometric properties of SERVQUAL have been examined in many studies and the evidence provides general support for the validity and reliability of the instrument (Kettinger and Lee, 1995; Finn and Lamb, 1991; Lam 1997). As quoted by Sureshchandar (2002), SERVQUAL operationalises SERVICE QUALITY by subtracting customers' expectation scores from their perception scores with regard to the 22 stipulated items. While the original version of SERVQUAL has been revised, refined and reformed, its fundamental contents have remained unaltered (Parasuraman et al. 1991, 1994). Babakus and Boller (1992) suggested that the dimensionality of service quality might depend on the type of industry being studied and hence the measures designed for specific industries (context) are more appropriate than using a generic one. However, Carrillat , Jaramillo and Mulki (2007) reiterated that a plausible explanation from their meta-analytic view of 17 years of research across five continents was that SERVQUAL was developed as a scale generalizable across service context.

Given the extent of testing and evaluation that has been carried out on SERVQUAL instrument in both the public and private sectors, there is much academic support for using it in its entirely as much as possible (Smith, Smith and Clarke, 2007). However, as to execute for research purpose, the SERVQUAL instrument was examined by the authors and colleagues in the kulliyyah a pilot study using the students. The main purposes were to determine if any modifications, corrections and adaptations to enable the modified SERVQUAL to be used successfully in measuring the service quality of the stipulated kulliyyah.

Small modifications and adaptations to the items and directions deemed necessary from the pilot study result. Consequently the study used 22 items designed SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al, 1991) with five dimensions to measure the service quality.

References:

  • Brochado, A. (2009). "Comparing alternative instruments to measure service quality in higher education". Quality Assurance in Education. Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 174-190.
  • Juran, J.M. & Gryna, F.M. (1988). Juran's quality control handbook. New York: McGrawhill.
  • Petruzzellis, L., D'Uggento, A.M. & Romanazzi, S. (2006). "Student satisfaction and quality of service in Italian universities. Managing Service Quality. Vol. 16. No. 4. Pp. 349-364.
  • Sureshchandar, G.S., Chandrasekharan, R. & Anantharaman, R.N. (2002). "Determinants of customer-perceived service quality: a confirmatory factor analysis approach".Journal of Services Marketing. Vol. 16. No. 1, pp. 9-34.
  • Carrillat, F.A., Jaramillo. F. & Mulki, J.P. (2007). The validity of the SERVQUAL and SERVPERF scales: A meta-analytic view of 17 years of research across five continents. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 18(5). Pp. 472-490.
  • Student satisfaction and quality of service in Italian universities. Luca Petruzzellis; Angela Maria D'Uggento; Salvatore Romanazzi; Managing Service Quality, Vol 16, No. 4, pp. 349-364.(2006)
  • Measuring service quality in higher education: HedPERF versus SERVPERF: Firdaus Abdullah: Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 31-47. (2006)
  • The validity of the SERVQUAL and SERVPERF scales: A meta-analytic view of 17 years of research across five continents: Francois A. Carrillat; Fernando Jaramillo; Jay. P. Mulki; International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 18, No. 5, pp. 472-490. (2007)

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