Customer satisfaction in higher education in selected African countries

This source preferred by Gbola Gbadamosi

Authors: De Jager, J.W. and Gbadamosi, G.

Start date: 18 April 2011

Publisher: Academy of Marketing

Continuous improvements of existing standards and increased students’ satisfaction have been key issues in service quality at higher educational institutions in South Africa. Both levels of satisfaction and perception of quality will likely determine students’ retention at higher education institutions. While Tan and Kek (2004) noted that enhancing educational value is to expend effort on continuous improvement, focus on stakeholders’ interests and to increase student satisfaction, Cheng (1990) indicated that students’ satisfaction is often used to assess educational quality. The higher education sector has traditionally been protected from competition that typifies a free market economy. Changes in the global economy and freer movement of people across the globe, among others, have changed this tradition of protection. Reduction in public sector funding, increasing oversupply of university capacity and increased levels of consumerism has forced the higher education sector to become more competitive in its approach to attracting and retaining students (Wright & O’Neill 2002).

Tertiary institutions have a major role in providing relevant education that best meets the needs of the various constituencies served and an assessment of factors that influence students’ choices and satisfaction is thus useful. This survey examines the gap between students’ perceived experience and the importance they hold of service delivery, and attempts to identify possible predictors of overall satisfaction with their respective universities. Survey data was obtained from 404 students from a Universities in South Africa (232) and a university in Swaziland (172). Students were selected at random from the management faculties of the respective universities and were selected from a list of all courses (including numbers of students per course). The sample comprises 45 per cent males and 55 per cent females. Each student was issued with a self administered questionnaire. The student samples were tested regarding the importance and their experience of pre identified service quality variables related to academic and non academic issues when assessing a specific tertiary institution. A major finding revealed that students’ perceived experience of service delivery is significantly lower than what they considered important in their universities. Perceptions of readiness for change, intention to leave, trust in management and support, living arrangements (accommodation) and academic performance emerged as significant predictors of students’ overall satisfaction with the university explaining up to 30 per cent of its variance. Practical implications, limitations and suggestions for future studies were articulated.

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