Effects country and delivery mode have on pre-university students' preferences and risk perceptions of international universities: a two country study

Norazlyn Kamal Basha

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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International students are increasingly important to many universities around the world. Despite this, surprisingly little research has examined their decision-making processes. While some research has examined students’ online and face-to-face learning, little research has examined the effects of education delivery mode (DM), on international students’ perceptions. Further, Country of Origin (COO) is also critical in the choice of international university. Thus, the focus of the research was to examine the effect of COO, DM, as well as other relevant university level attributes on Malaysian and Chinese pre-university students’ preferences for and risk perceptions of international universities. Conjoint analysis was used for this purpose. The study also sought to identify student segments that differed in terms of preferences and risk perceptions and, if so, to develop background profiles based on several individual factors of interest, namely; Materialism, Ethnocentrism and Personal Values.

An initial qualitative phase found Malaysian students preferences were influenced by risk perceptions (performance, financial and social), as well as some previously identified attributes (academic reputation, course suitability, teaching quality, job prospects and total cost), which led to the decision to include risk in the subsequent quantitative phase of the study. The quantitative study indicated that despite the presence of student segments that differ in their preferences and risk perceptions for international universities; these segments do not differ in terms of individual factors studied. However, and more importantly, the quantitative phase of the study found COD and DM were extremely important factors that dominated the pre-university students’ preferences for (and risk perceptions of) international universities. Online distance learning was the least preferred option, while offshore campuses were more acceptable to the Malaysian students than to the Chinese students. The Malaysian students preferred to study in the UK, while the Chinese students favoured Australia. The Malaysian students were also cost sensitive than the Chinese students, while the Chinese students were more influenced by job prospects.

These results have important implications for international higher education service providers. As Malaysia and China are important source countries, it is crucial for international higher education marketers to understand their similarities and differences if they are to create effective marketing strategies in both countries; as a one-size fits all marketing plan is likely to fail. International higher education marketers need to focus on different university attributes in different markets; decide whether to have a bricks-and-mortar strategy and consider how to reduce students’ risk perceptions, particularly as it applies to COO issues.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Sweeney, Jill, Supervisor
  • Soutar, Geoff, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


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