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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

An Investigation into the Key Influencers and Drivers on Student's Expectations of Their Higher Education Institution

Price, Graeme (2019) An Investigation into the Key Influencers and Drivers on Student's Expectations of Their Higher Education Institution. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


Higher educational institutions are now, more than ever, operating in a significantly competitive marketplace partly due to increased tuition fees, greater choice for students and increased student demands that are being placed upon the institutions. As a consequence of the changing dynamics within the sector, the effective marketing of the university can be the difference between success and failure. To compliment this marketing perspective, it has been identified that HEI’s also need to actively explore the factors that influence student expectations of students within their institution. The rationale for this is that a satisfactory student experience can lead to many benefits for the university, including positive feedback survey scores or increased word of mouth reviews. These can then be used by the institution in their marketing efforts towards attracting prospective new students to the university. However, if the institution does not meet the needs of their students there is an indication in the literature that shows a poor service delivery by the HEI can lead to negative student perceptions of the university experience. This can lead to student dissatisfaction which will be reflected in negative reviews and unhappiness with the institution. Thus, in order for universities to successfully manage their students’ expectations they must understand the drivers upon satisfaction of the university experience.

The current context
Therefore, based upon this context the thesis has explored the influences on undergraduate student expectations within the higher education sector and identifies the key drivers upon a satisfactory student experience. These influencers and drivers are further explored through the study which has taken place over a three-year period where it was determined that student perceptions and expectations of their university experience changes as they move through their programme of study. A conceptual framework has been developed to further explore these factors. The framework uses key dimensions from ‘Plato’s allegory of the cave philosophy’ as a metaphor to explore the student journey holistically from beginning to end, i.e. pre-enrollment to Graduation. The research will show that by understanding the key influencers on the student experience, HEI’s can effectively manage the expectations of their students and ensure a satisfactory student experience is given.

The research adopts a pragmatist philosophy and uses a mixed-methods approach comprising of quantitative questionnaire surveys and qualitative semi-structured focus groups of undergraduate students at a UK institution. The data was collected using a longitudinal data collection approach over a three-year period. The research results are analysed using appropriate methods including thematic coding and regression analysis.

The results recognised that there is a correlation between student expectations and their satisfaction with the student experience. It was identified that the key factors that impacted upon satisfaction were staff engagement, career opportunities, social interaction and support from lecturers, including feedback received. The findings also identified how student expectations changed over the period of university study. It was found that year 2 was a particularly important year in relation to student satisfaction, whereas in year 3 students placed a greater demand on the ‘service received’ from the institution, especially in relation to staff engagement.

Contribution to knowledge
Therefore, this research has provided an original contribution to both theory and practice through the development of a conceptual framework into the student experience. The framework developed will be used to bring a unique theoretical contribution of knowledge to the sector. The practical contribution is that the research findings will allow HEI’s to manage the student experience and make decisions to efficiently market the institution to prospective students.

Graeme Price - FINAL.pdf

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More Information

Depositing User: Klaire Purvis-Shepherd


Item ID: 10877

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 11:23
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:08


Author: Graeme Price

University Divisions

Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism
Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism > School of Business

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