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Higher Education Consumer Choice provides a comprehensive and highly focused critical analysis of research on HE consumer choice behaviour in the UK and around the world. Ideal for students, scholars and marketing practitioners interested in consumer choice and behaviour in higher education markets, the book explores the background and context to research on HE choice including globalization, changing supply and demand, fees and costs, and concerns about social disadvantage. Focusing on personal factors that influence consumer choice, group aspects of consumer behaviour such as cultural and ethnic differences, as well as theoretical and research models, this book is designed to stimulate new debate and criticism of HE consumer choice.



Introduction to Higher Education Consumer Behaviour

Greater understanding of the consumer’s critical role in the marketing of any organisation has provided the impetus for conducting research on consumer behaviour, including research on higher education consumer choice. In this chapter the authors set out the research questions which are the focus of the book, evaluate definitions of consumer behaviour; discuss elements and phases of consumer behaviour and factors that influence consumer choice. This chapter provides an introduction to the topics covered in the book, and summarises aspects of the topic that are beyond the scope of this text, including branding, marketing communications and social media.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

1. Context and Concepts of Higher Education Consumer Choice

The first chapter presents basic theories and concepts of higher education (HE) consumer choice behaviour, elaborates on the context of consumer behaviour and choice in higher education, and discusses the rational underpinning research on higher education choice. The section on the context of higher education covers concepts such as choice, globalisation, internationalisation, student mobility, and supply and demand (first section). The rationale for research on HE consumer choice is analysed in the second section, and the theoretical and practical justification for understanding the relationships between a wide variety of variables associated with students’ choice and decision-making are highlighted.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

2. Personal Influences on Consumer Behaviour

The second chapter analyses the personal influences on higher education consumer choice, by covering demographics — gender and age, family, income, educational background and lifestyle. The first section covers influences on consumer behaviour based on theoretical models and the meaning of segmentation (the ways a potential market is divided into distinctive groups of consumers with common characteristics and needs). Next, research on the major personal factors affecting consumer behaviour in HE are analysed in detail, with references to empirical findings on each topic. A critical discussion raises ethical issues and the need for further research.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

3. Group Aspects of Consumer Behaviour

The third chapter focuses on group aspects of consumer behaviour and introduces the social context of decision-making by examining social class categories. The social and cultural influences on higher education consumer choice are analysed based on prior research in HE consumer choice, and, based on the model presented in Chapter 2, include: social characteristics including social class, social disadvantage, socio-economic-status (SES) and cultural characteristics, comprising ethnicity and race, immigration factors, religious affiliation and international students. The final section provides a critical summary and raises issues about equality and equal opportunity, moral and ethical dilemmas, and multiculturalism.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

4. Organisational Factors Influencing Higher Education Consumer Choice

This chapter presents consumer choice models and discusses the influence of marketing on the choice process and institutional strengths, as factors in choice-making. It opens with a short debate about three models of consumer behaviour; two are general models relevant to all sectors while the final draws on HE consumer choice and marketing. In the next section, the authors discuss the meaning of marketing communications in general and of HE in particular. The content of the chapter seeks to extend knowledge about choice factors such as quality and reputation, the characteristics of the institutions, geographical location, outcomes and benefits of HE, and price sensitivity. Critical comments and discussion about the organisational factors of HE choice are provided as a summary.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

Conclusion: Modelling Higher Education Consumer Choice

The final chapter sums up the major points discussed in the book, and associates the major models of consumer behaviour developed in the business literature with the area of HE consumer choice. The chapter begins with the rationale for studying HE choice and connects it with the “black box” model, while indicating its relevance to HE institutions. Special attention is given to the authors’ proposed model for conducting research aimed at testing the importance of a range of antecedents of HE choice, based on the evidence and analysis set out in previous chapters. The chapter ends with an analysis of the concept and process of market segmentation that is central to HE consumer choice, and with final critical insights into the meaning of HE consumer behaviour and the research on HE choice in the future.
Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka


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