Overseas Education: Opportunities, Experience and Quality

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Vol. 6, No. 2. ISSN: 1473-8376 www.heacademy.ac.uk/hlst/resources/johlste

ACADEMIC PAPER

Service Quality in Higher Education: The Experience of Overseas Students Maria Pereda (deceased) David Airey (d.airey@surrey.ac.uk) and Marion Bennett (m.bennett@surrey.ac.uk) Faculty of Management and Law, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH ©Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education

Abstract
The higher education of students has become increasingly internationalised, with an evergrowing proportion of students originating from overseas. However, research to date suggests that overseas students are often less satisfied with their courses than other students. Consequently, there is a burgeoning need for universities to understand what students value in their university experience. This paper reports on a study that establishes and tests dimensions for measuring service quality in higher education, focusing on full-feepaying postgraduate students from non-EU countries at one institution in the UK. The institution concerned has a particular reputation in tourism and hospitality and a significant proportion of the respondents were studying these subjects. Adopting Lehtinen and Lehtinen’s 1991 framework, a Q-sort was undertaken followed by factor analysis. The results of the research highlighted four factors of service quality: recognition; quality of instruction and interaction with faculty; sufficiency of resources; and aspects of physical quality. Arguably, the most significant finding here is the importance that these students attach to their institution’s reputation. Keywords: Service quality; Higher education; International students Maria Pereda died in May 2006 shortly after completing her PhD thesis. The degree was awarded posthumously. A native of Venezuela, Maria graduated from Venezuela Central University and held an appointment at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. She completed her MSc at the University of Surrey in 2000, focusing on tourism and hospitality education. This paper is based on her PhD research. David Airey is Professor of Tourism Management and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Surrey. He has spent 30 years involved in tourism education in various capacities: with government, with the European Commission and with universities. He is co-editor, with John Tribe, of the recently published International Handbook of Tourism Education. Marion Bennett is Associate Lecturer in Tourism and Marketing at the University of Surrey. She has held lecturer positions since 1991 with the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey, where her interests have focused on information technology and marketing in relation to tourism distribution, heritage and air transport.

Pereda, Airey and Bennett (2007) Service Quality in Overseas Education: The Experience of Overseas Students

Introduction
The education of full-fee-paying international students has become of major importance for universities in Western nations, particularly in major English speaking destination countries. Barron (2005: 353) has suggested that “international education is one of Australia’s largest industries” and that the fees generated by international students are important to the budgetary health of institutions. In the UK, according to HESA (2006) and UKCOSA (2004), about 320,000 or 13 per cent of students in 2004-2005 came from overseas, with about 10 per cent from outside the European Union (EU). This figure more than doubled from about 160,000 in 1994-1995. For some institutions, international students currently represent more than 25 per cent of their student population (UKCOSA, 2006). The main countries of domicile of international students in the UK are China (32,000 or 12 per cent) and Greece (9 per cent), with at least a further 20 countries each providing more than 2,500 students. As far as tourism is concerned, equivalent total figures (UCAS, 2006) suggest that overseas students represent about 16 per cent of...
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