Keynote presentation delivered by Bradley Barnes from the University of Sheffield at the 2011 BLA conference held in Sheffield from 13-15 July.
1. Analysing Service Quality Among Post-Graduate Chinese Students Dr Bradley R. Barnes Associate Dean for Internationalisation, Professor of International Management & Marketing The Management School
2. Background Chinese higher education industry is set to intensify Previously, institutions may have been able to obtain high returns for relatively little effort. Future most certainly will be tougher In response an action research process is adopted using a modified SERVQUAL instrument to investigate expectations and perceptions of service quality
3. Introduction US and UK business and management schools growth in post-graduate Chinese students Hope of obtaining high quality education Rapid economic growth in China, traditional Chinese values associated with education Gravy train high-fee paying students Opportunities to expand their international operations further, international joint ventures foreign direct investment Local Universities also batting smarter
4. Constraints S.A.R.S Visa processing Reduced economic growth in China Fear of no job Competitive state of the Chinese higher education industry is set to intensify Previously high returns for relatively little effort, future certainly will be tougher
5. Research Aims In response, analyse service quality among a sample of Chinese post-graduate students Better understanding that is expected among such students Map student expectations against perceptions and identify service quality gaps (bridge quality gaps improve perf) Locate areas of performance where improvements are needed Allocate resources, where better used
6. Measuring Service Quality Berry (1995) service is important. Enhance value and can positively influence success A providers service can help to offset potential burdens, like having to pay a high price Parasuraman et al (1988) yielded a useful concept of ten potentially overlapping dimensions Further extensive statistical analysis revealed significant correlations between certain dimensions
7. Measuring Service Quality Re-grouping of the original ten into five dimensions (tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy) SERVQUAL represents a multi-item scale since its development has been widely used for measuring expectations and perceptions of service quality dimensions Consumers are required to select a response on Likert scales that range from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
8. Measuring Service Quality Allows for the difference scores for each dimension to be calculated. Difference (P-E=Q) Where Q is negative a service gap exists
9. SERVQUAL in HE SERVQUAL scale tends to have been largely ignored in HE Exception of Lampley (2001) who undertook research with doctoral students Very little (if any) service quality research has been concluded among post-graduate students Surprising bearing in mind their economic contribution, particularly the number of post-graduate Chinese
10. Research Methods Action research approach Carr and Kemmis (1986) Strategic action susceptibly can lead to improvement Project evolves through a series of spirals
11. Lewins Action Research Spiral
12. Research Methods This line of exploration was undertaken for two reasons Firstly little had been concluded regarding the perceptions of Chinese students Multi-faceted research approach seemed more apparent Secondly, opportunity for triangulation (respondent triangulation and data triangulation; Gill and Johnson, 1991; Yin, 1994) Former for developing and testing the instrument Latter for obtaining a more rounded picture hard and soft data
13. Research Process Literature Review Twenty two statements from the original SERVQUAL instrument were modified - PLUS The institutions facilities Such as library, computer services (Hill, 1995). Accommodation, sports facilities, catering, reprographics (Cuthbert, 1996; Aldridge and Rowley, 1998). location, campus layout (Ford et al 1999)
14. Research Process The provision for guidance in terms of careers (Hill, 1995; Ford et al, 1999), Financial aid (Pariseau and McDaniel, 1997) Academic and personal guidance facets (Vidal et al 2003) Several performance related dimensions including value (Long et al, 1995) satisfaction and the willingness to recommend (ONeill and Palmer. 2001; Pariseau and McDaniel, 1997)
15. Research Stages In depth personal interviews; Quality Manager, Marketing & Communications Manager, Director of Post-Graduate Programmes Two focus group discussions were also performed with four of the schools Programme Managers and four post-graduate Chinese students After each interview and focus group modifications were made to the instrument Framework was then later tested with a small sample of Chinese post-graduate marketing students
16. Research Process Final instrument consisted of three sections First nineteen statements that were modified from the original SERVQUAL. Two subsequent dimensions were added: guidance (guidance and support elements provided), University (facilities that the university provides).
17. Administering The Survey Collaborated with other teaching staff at the school Self administered survey at the beginning of a lecture Over a two week period towards the latter half of the second semester Opportunity to win a significant cash prize 105 surveys were returned and 102 were sufficiently completed 69.39% response rate, total number of post-graduate Chinese students
18. Analysis of Findings Entered into SPSS Paired sample t-tests Factor analysis Multiple regression analysis Resulting data provided a second stage to reflect on the situation, how and why the statistical patterns occurred Inductive approach was considered appropriate
19. Focus Groups Three follow-up focus group sessions Researcher and four Chinese post-graduate students Two in-depth one-to-one student interviews In summary, three action cycles were completed in this research process 1 - Initially led to the development and refinement of the instrument 2 - This led to the instrument being used to survey students 3 - The resulting findings were used to undertake qualitative research and probe further
20. Table 1a. Mean scores (and standard deviations) for the SERVQUAL dimensions P sdE sd P-E Responsiveness Prompt service4.91 (1.09)5.89 (0.97) -0.98 Staff willing to help5.31 (0.93)6.09 (1.02) -0.77 Prompt response to requests4.73 (1.19)5.59 (1.21) -0.86 Assurance Instil confidence4.85 (0.97)5.64 (1.06) -0.78 To be courteous5.09 (1.05)5.70 (1.11) -0.61 Have knowledge5.36 (1.05)6.17 (0.82) -0.80 Empathy Teach staff provide individual attention4.03 (1.45)5.25 (1.22) -1.23 Support staff provide individual attention (mean for 7 and 8) Understand needs3.92 (1.44)5.31 (1.28) -1.39 Have best interests at heart4.25 (1.31)5.26 (1.34) -1.02 School has convenient hours4.03 (1.02)6.02 (0.99) -1.99 School office has convenient hours (mean for 11 and 12) Tangibles Modern looking equipment5.34 (1.07)5.71 (1.24) -0.36 Neat employees5.49 (1.02)5.76 (1.04) -0.27 Materials visually appealing5.07 (1.02)5.66 (0.99) -0.59 Reliability Deliver services on-time5.09 (1.13)6.01 (1.05) -0.92 Help to solve problems4.66 (1.16)5.91 (1.05) -1.25 Perform right the first time4.74 (1.08)5.75 (1.00) -1.01 Inform of events and services5.03 (1.31)5.91 (0.99) -0.88 SERVQUAL TOTALS89.96108.9 -18.94 SERVQUAL AVERAGE4.735.73-1
21. Table 1b. Mean scores (and standard deviations) for the University and Guidance dimensions P sd E d P-E University Reasonable accommodation / housing4.69 (1.22)5.76 (1.20) -1.08 Adequate sports / recreation4.25 (1.40)5.61 (1.21) -1.36 Campus suitably located5.50 (1.00)5.83 (1.08) -0.33 Suitable campus layout5.20 (1.09)5.62 (1.12) -0.42 Suitable library facilities5.62 (1.06)6.36 (0.94) -0.75 Adequate books4.91 (1.45)6.37 (1.00) -1.46 Adequate healthcare provision4.59 (1.30)5.64 (1.04) -1.05 Adequate financial services 3.87 (1.38)5.37 (1.33) -1.50 Suitable class sizes4.24 (1.69)5.92 (1.24) -1.69 Appropriate level / difficulty of study4.95 (1.08)5.79 (1.15) -0.84 Appropriate Masters programme work load4.90 (1.21)5.68 (1.34) -0.77 Treated as a client4.48 (1.36)4.97 (1.44) -0.49 Comfortable lecture theatres4.44 (1.60)5.99 (1.02) -1.55 Adequate computing facilities5.32 (1.05)6.08 (1.04) -0.75 Adequate study areas4.46 (1.56)5.96 (1.13) -1.50 Adequate media support4.49 (1.49)5.94 (1.14) -1.45 Suitable refreshment areas4.09 (1.59)5.30 (1.33) -1.22 Reasonably priced refreshments3.45 (1.65)5.40 (1.39) -1.95 Guidance Suitable career guidance4.68 (1.15)5.78 (1.15) -1.11 Suitable academic guidance5.02 (1.16)6.00 (1.06) -0.98 Guidance on personal matters4.17 (1.41)5.03 (1.32) -0.86 Guidance on cultural issues4.26 (1.34)5.64 (1.14) -1.37 Suitable induction 4.41 (1.31)5.43 (1.09) -1.02
22. Expectations Just one single expectation item to be treated like a client fell below five Expectation (E) values among the Chinese post-graduate students were high per se I think it is because of the excellent reputation that the university has back home Its probably because we have no previous knowledge of a British University, and expect it to be super great Because we think education in the UK should be better than in China It was down to cost the high relative course fees in relation to other UK and Chinese institutions
23. Perceptions Just three perception items below mid-point of 4 Some disagreement among students in terms of the institution Understanding the needs of Chinese post-graduate students Providing adequate financial services Provision of reasonably priced refreshments Thirteen items exceeded five
24. Perceptions (continued) The remainder fell close to mid-point When given the chance Chinese prefer to be neutral, they dont like to be divided one way or the other Perhaps its normal Chinese people may never say too many good things, even if it is really good
25. Gaps As each has a negative value, service is falling short against consumer expectations Significant differences on all forty two statements The institution should take the appropriate measures on-board to bridge Qualitative research proved useful why such service gaps emerged????
26. Gaps May be because of the high fees, we just expect too much. Also because we are the single kid at home we get exactly what we want and expect the full package here to be so much higher than in China The working hours are short here we have shorter contact time than in China. We pay so much and expect so much Because the British way of life is no compromise I am closed, I am closed were not open for you
27. t valuep value Responsiveness Prompt service6.93.000 Staff willing to help6.51.000 Prompt response to requests5.14.000 Assurance Instil confidence6.35.000 To be courteous5.03.000 Have knowledge6.37.000 Empathy Teach staff provide individual attention7.21.000 Support staff provide individual attention (based on mean for 7 and 8) Understand needs8.13.000 Have best interests at heart5.84.000 School has convenient hours10.84.000 School office has convenient hours(based on mean for 11 and 12) Tangibles Modern looking equipment2.36.020 Neat employees2.20.030 Materials visually appealing4.47.000 Reliability Deliver services on-time6.29.000 Help to solve problems8.64.000 Perform right the first time7.75.000 Inform of events and services5.64.000 Table 2. Paired sample t-test statistics
28. Table 2. Paired sample t-test statistics University Reasonable accommodation / housing6.82.000 Adequate sports / recreation7.69.000 Campus suitably located2.70.008 Suitable campus layout3.29.001 Suitable library facilities5.95.000 Adequate books8.69.000 Adequate healthcare provision6.59.000 Adequate financial services 8.89.000 Suitable class sizes8.41.000 Appropriate level / difficulty of study5.25.000 Appropriate Masters programme work load4.36.000 Treated as a client2.78.006 Comfortable lecture theatres8.83.000 Adequate computing facilities5.41.000 Adequate study areas7.51.000 Adequate media support7.56.000 Suitable refreshment areas6.21.000 Reasonably priced refreshments9.59.000 Guidance Suitable career guidance6.95.000 Suitable academic guidance6.80.000 Guidance on personal matters5.54.000 Guidance on cultural issues8.85.000 Suitable induction 7.14.000
29. Factor Analysis University and Guidance dimensions were excluded from this analysis Used to investigate SERVQUALs applicability within this particular cultural and educational context Extraction method used; a) eigenvalues being greater than one, b) factors accounting for a minimum 60% of the variance
30. Factor Analysis (continued) Varimax Rotation was used with Kaiser normalization, tried and tested method that frequently yields simple structure (Norman and Streiner, 1997) Despite items seven, ten, fifteen and nineteen having bipolar loadings, in each case a marginally higher loading was apparent on a different factor, differences were small - retained items within t...