Higher Education

 

Nature of Education: Education, classified as a marketable service has offered a conceptual foundation that involves five criteria i.e. nature of service, relations with customers, level of customization & judgement, the nature of demand relative to supply, and the method of service delivery. Using Lovelock’s framework given by (Mazzarol & Norman, 1999), education services can be described as having the following characteristics: The education service is directed at people i.e. their minds, rather than their bodies and is predominantly a people based rather than a product- based service. If narrowed down, education as a service is a mental stimulus process, which has the potential to affect people’s attitude, and influence their behavior & outlook. The relationship with the customer in an education service involves a prolonged & formal relationship, where a continual delivery of the service is required. Students have what Lovelock refers to as a ``membership'' relationship with the service provider, offering an opportunity to develop strong client loyalty and enhanced client services (Mazzarol & Norman, 1999). In the context of customization and judgment, some services require greater customization & judgment from the service providers, than others. In the case of education service, the level of customization varies. Individual guidance, private tutorials or personalized supervision are good examples of customized service. 

 

 

The nature of demand relative to supply of service can involve a widespread demand (e.g. gas supply) or a restrict demand (e.g. insurance). Although gas services can be increased quickly to meet the requirements, but a service like a hotel accommodation is challenging to regulate. In the case of education, chances of fluctuation are scarce. However, supply can be tricky to manage, with precincts on the availability of staff and seats available for courses. The method of service delivery the may be classified into those requiring single or multiple site outlets and the nature of the customer interaction with the service (Mazzarol & Norman, 1999). Either customers may move to a service provider, or a service provider may move to meet customers. In international education, students usually come to the institution for their educational pursuits. Then again, this tradition is changing rapidly with the formation of overseas delivered programs and distance learning education.

 

Higher Education Marketing 

 

Studying abroad is critical decision for students & their families, which profoundly challenges their mental and financial abilities. The exceptionally high costs, associated with studying abroad make it a complex decision. The decision to study overseas augments the complexity of a student, be it in selecting a destination country or an appropriate educational institution. 

Higher education is characterized by high level of interpersonal contact, complexity, divergence, and customization than any other service businesses (Cubillo et at, 2006). There are various details, which a prospective student will consider before joining an institution i.e., aspects related to living in the host country like safety, security, cultural activities, international background, university environment, quality of life, visa requirements etc. When a prospective student eventually decides to study in a particular country, he is not only buying the education service, but he is also buying the auxiliary services, associated with the core service. Since most of the attributes in higher education cannot be perceived, felt, or tested in advance, it is thus difficult for a student to evaluate an educational program or institution. 

 

One of the eccentricities of international education is that, the service must be, provided at the host country. Hence, prospective students receive an array of services, featuring the core service, the main education service and  some auxiliary services, related to education activities at the host institution; and a pack of secondary services, in this case, related to their stay at the host country and the host city (Cubillo, at al. 2006). It is usually hard to determine when the service begins. In higher education for example, the service will probably commence, when the student contacts the institution by e-mail, phone, or requests information about the institution, the course, or the entry requirements. This is the first service encounter, for the prospective student. 

 

Prospective students often look to the physical cues, which encompass the services, resulting in formation of the impression, about the service. Thus, effective management of physical evidence is very important in education marketing. 

Aspects such as, prospectus, web site, exhibitions stands, stationery and business cards significantly assist the international students in forming their perceptions. Videos and CD-ROMs also give an indication of campus life and a vision, about the institution. To ascertain their preferences, prospective students consider what is significant for them, and then make a conscious/unconscious decision. There are various factors, which influence the international students. The five reasons, which form the core of international student’s desire, are:

  

Personal Reasons: When considering fundamental benefits, students are not only buying degrees, they rather buy, the benefits associated to the degree, which enhances their scope of employment and enhance their status & lifestyle. Thus, an employment prospects plays a significant role in enticing students, to study overseas. Besides employment, factors, which also influence a student’s decision, are; an enhanced, higher status in society, international experience etc. According to (Cubillo, et al. 2006), future employers are true customers, because they will buy the product (trained students). They are the ones who judge the validity of the studies according to their perception about the program quality, the institution’s prestige, and the country image. Other reasons which motivates a student to study overseas includes, the desire to experience a different culture, meeting new people, making international contacts, and improving language skills, for non-English speaking students. 

  

Country Image Effect: The country image is first source that students considers, while evaluating the pros and cons of various destination countries. Country image refers to the reputation and the stereotype, which students attach to the services of a specific country. Country image plays an important role in the choice of a service provider, as consumers prefer service providers from developed countries than from developing countries. Due to the prestige image of certain countries in higher education, students tend to believe that higher education offered in these countries is high quality (Cubillo et al. 2006).

 
City Image Effect: The city image effect reflects the environment; where the service is, to be provided. The physical environment of the institution with its facilities, along with the complete city, sums the city image effect. The aspects of the city, its tourist attractions, its historical milieu, and the monuments, contribute to the city image. Often, attractive locations, social facilities and environmental conditions in a city, influence the students’ choice. 

 
Institution Image: According to an established and long-held conclusion, brand image has considerable influence on consumer behavior. (Palacio et al. 2002). The influence of image increases in sales and strengths the brand loyalty. Therefore, brand image is of tremendous importance, both profit and non-profit organizations. The institution is selected because of various factors such as the academic reputation, the quality & expertise of its teaching staff, campus atmosphere etc. The institution image is the sum of opinions, ideas, and impressions that prospective students have of the institution (Cubillo et al. 2006). Their judgment about the image of the institution builds up, by word of mouth publicity, past experiences, and marketing efforts of the institution. 
 
 

Facilities: The physical environment of the service production comprises a vital element in the decision-making process. The most important factor related to facilities is social life at the university and its surroundings. On the other side, factors such as safety, security, and sports facilities are considered less significant. Other factors, influencing the institution image are the auxiliary services such as library facilities, availability of computers, and availability of study rooms etc.
 
 

Program Evaluation: Two researchers, Hooley and Lynch, in nineteen eighty one, observe that the suitability of the program is the most important factor, since students will accept any level of the other factors (Cubillo et al.2006). Prospective students, compare programs offered by other educational institutions as well, to ensure suitability. The elements that influence the program evaluation are diversity of courses, their quality, international rankings, availability of courses, entry criteria, costs, & fee associated with the program. 
 

Hence, employment opportunities, enhanced career prospects, understanding the culture of the host nation and making international contacts are the foremost factors, which entice international students to study overseas. International students are very keen in mixing with other cultures and consider it important, to learn from their colleagues and staff. According to (Russell, 2005), the lecturers draw out their experiences to share among the class, helping students’ understanding of the multi-cultural working environment, and improving their English ability. 

 
When international students come to study overseas, they are not only interested in obtaining degrees, they are also keen be friendly with UK students, understand their culture, improve their English and attempt to localize with the host environment. Thus, the desire to integrate with multicultural students, comprehension of host culture, and learning from fellow students, is vital for international students. This argument can be associated with the literature analysis of service marketing, where other people formed the part of the product. When international students come to study overseas, they expect to make new friends from host & other countries, comprehend their culture, and fit in the international environment. On the contrary, if they find no international diversity and limited student from the host nation, they are bound for disappointment, which ultimately affects the business. It is thus very important for service organizations, in this case for education institutions, to have a good customer base, which not only adds to the dimension to it, but also adds to the service experience of its students.