This chapter aims to present an insight into the research methods and enveloped in the research methodologies, philosophies, theoretical approaches, and research strategies, employed in this study. The investigation of the literature from various sources (electronically and literally) and the new learning in qualitative research enhanced my understanding for this research. According to (Webster, 1985) "The research is to search or investigate exhaustively". The true research is a quest motivated by a specific question which needs to be answer in a proper way. The focus of this research is based on the study of the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of the University of Gloucestershire for MBA Programme. These are the following aspects that will be considered in this chapter as follows;
Purpose of Research
The Source of Information
Reliability and Validity
Limitations of the Study
Purpose of Research:
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The purpose of this research study is to investigate the effectiveness of its marketing strategies for the success of its MBA programme. The researcher started with the question "What marketing strategy is needed to make a Post Graduate (MBA Programme) course successful?" This inquiry led the researcher towards the understanding and the influences of the marketing department of the University of Gloucestershire on the quality of service according to the student's perception. In the following regards, the researcher addressed these objectives for the research.
The main objective of this research is to investigate, the effectiveness of the current marketing strategy for undergraduate and MBA/M.Sc Top-Up programmes students, in the University of Gloucestershire, and the role it plays for the long run organisational success.
The current marketing strategies of the university will be focussed on, whether it creates a bridge between the university and the undergraduate and MBA/M.Sc Top-up programme students or not, for the better understanding of the student's perceptions and preferences.
The previous year's marketing strategy will be overviewed, whether it was kept and act successfully for undergraduate and postgraduate MBA/M.Sc Top-up programmes or not?
In order to attain these objectives and to address the research question for this research study, researcher selected the exploratory study. According to (Robson, 2002) "an exploratory study is a valuable means of finding out what is happening; to seek new insights; to ask questions and to access phenomena in a new light". The exploratory study leads the researcher to clarify the problems in the research and broaden the understanding, especially when the researcher is unconfident of the particular nature of the problem.
The study of this research is based on the conceptual framework adapted from couple of theories which are discussed in the literature review.
The Porter's five forces model used to clearly identify those factors which play vital roles for affecting the competitiveness. These are the factors which represents the existing opportunities and the threats for the organisation. SWOT analysis is used to formulate the competitive strategy in the specified market. The BCG model is used to formulate different programmes offered in the University of Gloucestershire for the students in the four quadrants. This model helps strategists to make the strategy successful for the organisation. The Bowman Strategy Clock is used to analyse the position of the University of Gloucestershire in the current situation in the specified target market.
Sources of Information:
The data was collected for this research study by the different sources, electronically and literally. In this research study there were two types of data collections methods were used primary data and secondary data. In primary data the qualitative approach was used and the tools for the data collection were focus group interviews from the marketing department of the University of Gloucestershire and the student questionnaire from the final year master stage business and MBA Top up programme students of University of Gloucestershire were selected. In order to gain the competitive knowledge, for the competitive analysis in the specified target market, there were a small number of students of Anglia Ruskin University, London were selected. A similar student questionnaire floated to them to collect the qualitative data.
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In the following connections, there were varieties of secondary sources used. It includes reports, journals, University of Gloucestershire web site, World Wide Web, university's learning centre, newsletters, government white papers, and the material displayed around the reception office.
In order to investigate the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of the University of Gloucestershire for its successful MBA programme, researcher's philosophical observation can be categorised as positivism.
Positivism is a type of research philosophy which is mainly termed as scientific. It can be defined by (Remnyi, Williams, Money, & Sawrtz, 1998), "working with an observable social reality that the end product of such research can be law like generations similar to those produced by the physical and natural scientists". On the other hand according to (Remnyi, Williams, Money, & Sawrtz, 1998), "the 'resources' researcher would claim to be external to the process of data collection in the sense that there is little that can be done to alter the substance of the data collected. The researcher is independent of and neither affects nor is affected by the subject of the research, and the researcher cannot change the fact".
(Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) explain that the researchers critical of positivism would argue that rich insights into the complex world of business and management are lost if reduced entirely to a series of law like generalisations. Businesses are complex and unique and therefore one could argue that research into this area does not necessarily need the element of generalisability.
The objective of this research is to achieve an in depth understanding of the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of the University of Gloucestershire in the specified target market. It is therefore necessary to understand how the University's previous marketing strategy in the specified target market was successful or not for its student recruitment instead of having tough competition. In the following connections, it should be an important step to understand properly about the changes in the University's marketing strategy according to the rapid change in the competitive market environment and its adaptation according to the current change.
In order to answer the research question the qualitative data and the deductive approach are used, these are briefly defined as follows;
The purpose of this research study is to investigate the effectiveness of marketing strategy of University of Gloucestershire for its MBA Programme, for this purpose the research approach used for this study is deductive. The reason to choose this research approach is to examining the specific outcome of the inquiry or investigation. The deductive approach leads us to observe the reasons from the general to the particular one.
According to (Collis & Hussey, 2003) is "the deductive approach involves in the development of a theory that is subjected to a rigorous test. As such, it is the dominant research approach in the natural sciences, where laws present the basis of explanation, allow the anticipation of the phenomena, predict their occurrence and therefore permit them to be controlled".
In the following connections, (Gilgun, 2002) argue that "Deductive qualitative analysis is a method, or series of procedures, useful for the testing and reformulation of theoretical models". According to (Gilgun, 2002) in a deductive qualitative analysis, the researcher begins the research with a conceptual framework in his mind, and then starts to reformulate the best model which fits in his research study to answer his research questions and the objectives defined. The important procedure which a researcher has to follow in a deductive qualitative analysis is the in-depth search for the proof, which can weaken the current conceptual framework.
The purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of the University of Gloucestershire for its MBA programme in the specified target market. In order to provide an appropriate proposal to a future marketing strategy for this particular target market, with this in mind the qualitative approach for the data collection was used. According to (Miles & Huberman, 1994) the qualitative data "are sources of well grounded, rich descriptions and explanations of process in an identified local context".
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The qualitative research is a family of social science and it is very much concerned with the understanding of human behaviour and is used to study their reactions, their attitudes, their beliefs, their knowledge and experience. Qualitative research allows the researcher to study more appropriately about their subjects to attain their answers of their objectives in a much richer way. The uses of qualitative research give valuable insights of the study, which might be missed by using of any other method and it also; provide vital information to our research question in its own style. The qualitative research is very helpful to conduct a research, if the area of interest has not been previously investigated.
This method to collect the data will aim to investigate the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of University of Gloucestershire for its MBA programme and an understanding of the past, present and future strategic marketing approaches in the specified target market for its MBA programme from the view of the marketing staff working at the University of Gloucestershire, as well as the final stage undergraduate business studies and MBA Top Up Programme student's perception of how well it works according their needs and wants.
Data collection is a process of preparing and collecting data from different sources. The main reason of data collection is to obtain the proper and up to date information to keep on record. It is use to make the correct decisions about the important issues and the information, which has to be passed to others. There are two types of sources for data collection, primary data and secondary data. In this study both the sources are used to get the full advantage to get the perfect result.
The primary data can be defined as (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) "the data collected specially for the research project being undertaken". The primary research conducted in this study is based on the close ended questionnaires and the semi structured interviews. According to (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) the use of interviews can help the researcher in a proper way to gather valid and reliable data that are relevant to the particular research question and its research objectives. (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) state that "In focus group interviews the researcher will have a list of themes and the no of questions to be covered". In the following connections, there is not a strict boundary or a special order to choose on which the questions from the respondents will be asked. Both interviewer and interviewee can talk face to face in a single session with no time difference, and the impressions can be judged properly in response to each other.
The other method used in this study to gather a primary data is the use of questionnaire survey. The questionnaire's surveys are the part of our daily life, in the university fill out applications for admissions, in the market for shopping and in the offices for recruitment or job search. According to (Bell, 2005), "it is far harder to produce a good questionnaire than you might think. You need to ensure that it will collect the precise data that you require to answer your research question and achieve your objectives".
The focus group interviews with the of members of the marketing department staff of the University of Gloucestershire were carried out, in order to gain an in depth understanding of the University of Gloucestershire's past and present marketing strategies for its MBA programme in the specified target market, to analyse their thoughts and proper understanding regarding their successful future market planning of the MBA programme in the competitive specified target market.
The questionnaire survey is selected for the group of final year business and MBA Top-Up programme students of University of Gloucestershire. The questionnaire survey collected the detail about the overall quality of the undergraduate programme, their expectations about the quality of the MBA programme, and their perception about the quality service according to their needs and desires.
The secondary data can be defined as (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) "The data used for a research project that were originally collected for some other purpose". (Steward & Kamins, 1993) argue that, "if you are using an secondary data, you are at an advantage compare with researcher using primary data". Secondary data play a vital role for the researcher in order to gain a comprehensive knowledge and information about the previous research, which help for his brain storming and find out the new path for his own research as well. There are number of sources to gather the secondary data, either electronically or literally. These include emails, data bases, websites, journals and reports, letters raw data and published summaries.
In order to gain a proper understanding about the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of the University of Gloucestershire for the success of its MBA programme in the specified target market, there were varieties of secondary sources used. It includes reports, journals and the information available on the university's web site, learning centre, and the material displayed around the reception office. The fact and figures collected about the number of students enrolled for Business Studies and the MBA Top-Up programme from the university's registry office.
The Focus Group Interviews:
"Focus groups (Kitzinger, 1995) are a form of group interview that capitalises on communication between research participants in order to generate data. Although group interviews are often used simply as a quick and convenient way to collect data from several people simultaneously, focus groups explicitly use group interaction as part of the method".
In this research the focus group interviews were used to gather the qualitative data for the research topic. The focus group interviews are a very useful technique to gather the qualitative data, because it allows (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) "all the members of the group to share their ideas and thoughts to each other. The focus group interviews able all the participants of the group to trigger their different range of experiences, ideas and thoughts from each other, and it also helps to considers and collect a range of views from each others about their personal and professional levels. However, it is very important for the interviewer to ensure that all the members of the focus group are contributing properly in the interview during the process". It was well kept in mind that there should be no dominance of any individual in the group (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) argue, because some individual in the group may be influenced by the other members of the group and they agree whatever is being described in the interview. The questions raised in the interview were accurate according to the objective and the research question as a method of data collection.
The interview was carried out in such a way with the focus group of members of staff of University of Gloucestershire that they think that the interviewer want to listen them, because these were those people who have much experience in recruitment of the students. In the following regards, the position of power of the interviewer was well kept that the interviewee could be affected well in a way that what is said is according to the objective of the research? The interview is designed according to the nature of the situation and was different from the normal discussion.
After the interview the information obtained was distorted (Kitzinger, 1995) and translated in a well form as a word document. The questions asked were open ended because they allow the participants to answer the questions in detail or a short answer according to their wish. These questions were based on the past, present and future marketing strategy of the University and the student welfare. The participation in the focus group members was voluntary.
These particular persons, who were selected from the marketing department of the University of Gloucestershire, were interviewed due to their extreme knowledge and experience in the strategic marketing and planning for the university and of the business students within the University of Gloucestershire. In this regards, it enabled the interviewer to shed the light on a variety of issues in relation to the strategic marketing and recruitment of the University of Gloucestershire. The interview lasted approximately 40mins. (Example of the interview available in appendix)
"A questionnaire (Key, 1997) is a means of eliciting the feelings, beliefs, experiences, perceptions, or attitudes of some sample of individuals or groups".
Qualitative data from the final year degree students and MBA Top-Up programme students of University of Gloucestershire was collected in a form of a student questionnaire by means of a sheet. The participation of these students was voluntarily in this research, and the care was taken during the process of completion that the students understood well about all the questions written in the questionnaire. It was made possible to furnish them all the information about the purpose of the research, and the confident were given to them that the decision of their selection, written in the questionnaire whether or not to select and agree or disagree would have no implication. All the data collected will be kept safe by the researcher and it will not become hurtful for their progress in the current course or their entry into the University of Gloucestershire's next year programme.
All the students were in the final year undergraduates studying business studies and the MBA Top up programme. The student questionnaire lasted approximately 30mins. (Example of the student questionnaire is available in appendix)
Reliability and Validity:
Issues such as reliability and validity are very important to consider when conduction a research. In the following regards, (Patton, 2002) states that "validity and reliability are two factors, which any qualitative researcher should be concerned about, while designing a study, analysing results and judging the quality of the study".
On the other hand (Patton, 2002) state "with regards to the researcher's ability and the skills during conducting any qualitative research, reliability is a consequence of the validity in a study".
In the qualitative study (Seale, 1999) argue that "to ensure the reliability in qualitative research, examination of trustworthiness is crucial". (Seale, 1999) state, "while establishing good quality studies through reliability and validity in qualitative research, trustworthiness of a research report lies at the heart of issues conventionally discussed as validity and reliability"
On the broadest sense (Black, 1993) describe that "reliability and validity address issues about the quality of the data and appropriateness of the methods used in carrying a research project. The quality of the data and the appropriateness of the methods employed are particularly important in the social sciences because of the different philosophical and methodological approaches to the study of human activity".
According to (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007) the two terms validity and reliability can be defined as follows;
"Validity is concerned with whether the findings are really about what they appear to be about".
"Reliability can be assessed by posing the following two questions.
1) Will the measure yield the same results on different occasions? And
2) Will similar observations be made by different researchers on different occasions?"
During conducting the qualitative research, generally the distress about the validity and reliability of the study is of greater importance, especially when a researcher conducting the scientific studies based on the positivism theory. It allows for much individual outcome, which might not be universal law for all universities to come to market themselves and recruit students in the competitive specified target market. In the following regards, the recommendations made here will be focused on the specific circumstances in which the University discover itself. However, it does not mean that the recommendations give here cannot be implemented at other higher education institutions.
Limitations of the Study:
This is the case study, which is based on one specific institution, 'University of Gloucestershire'. This study reflects a very small part of its operations, with this in mind, it must be emphasised that the findings of this study will not have a great impact on its strategy, and therefore the logic behind the choosing such a specific topic might be questioned by the planners. However, during conducting the research on the effectiveness of the marketing strategy of University of Gloucestershire for the success of its MBA programme, the objective mindset has been kept clear all the way through the study.
During the process, other approaches for the success of this research were considered, including looking at the whole situation form strategic perspective, incorporating literature based on the marketing strategy and planning rather than service marketing for education institute and the competitive environment in the specified target market, which may have changed the aim of the study. However, once the method was chosen by the researcher, it was believed to be the most suitable for this research in this particular situation.