The value trade-off in higher education service: A qualitative intercultural approach to students’ perceptions

Danni Li, Martina Gallarza Granizo, Teresa Fayos Gardó


Purpose: Higher Education Institutions have become a highly competitive market, where consumers (i.e. students) are highly involved in their choices, and managers need to focus on competitive edges. This paper aims to understand the factors that influence student choice behaviour and fulfil student expectations of customer value in higher education institutions (HEIs).

Design/methodology/approach: with qualitative information (focus groups) collected from international students of several universities in Spain, Britain and China, the paper investigates the formation of customer value, as a trade-off between benefits and costs. This qualitative approach aims first at assessing this particular service through the concept of value through verifying both the positive and negative dimensions of HE, and second, to comment on the intercultural aspects of this dual approach to higher education consumption.

Findings: the results show different levels of benefits: the functional value generally comes from infrastructures and good teachers that offer abundant practical experiences. The benefits from quality education also derived from teamwork with the colleagues who possess equal academic strength. Social benefits come from experiences outside the academic environment, working with people from different cultural backgrounds who have different perspectives. Emotional rewards come from University reputation and relationships with instructors. Costs of time and effort are differently seen across programs and vary widely upon nationalities and cultural backgrounds.

Practical implications: since the competitive environments are fast becoming more and more complex added to the fact that it changes rapidly and dynamically, to concentrate on a few key elements are most important to the organizations survival. Different values of customers in different countries suggest that the strategy used by the corporation in a certain country, may not be apply to another.

Originality/value: given that values are critical factors for developing trust and commitment, research findings have presented to support that national culture affects the different values perceived in the HE experience. In this sense, the research provides a research basis for primary investigation and allocation of higher education resources in the global market.


Higher education service, value dimensions, perceived value, benefits, costs, intercultural comparisons

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2024

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience