1 Universidad de Valencia, Facultad de Economía (SPAIN)
2 Universidad Católica de Valencia (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 6690-6698
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Rationale and scope:
Nowadays, it is clear that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) operate in a competitive environment, were in order to be successful it is vital that universities, like any other business, address issues of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Because of the idiosyncrasy of the Higher Education service, where the consumer may purchase just once, the affective dimension of loyalty, i.e. recommendation or positive word-of-mouth (w.o.m) is crucial for assessing the value offered to consumers (students, families, the society…). With the fast growing number of students now in the market of higher education, it becomes attractive to marketers, to manage Universities as brands, offering customers a lifetime value. Universities can get students to engage with their brands, in search of a lifetime loyal customer. But, Higher Education service is a credence good, with little chances of repeat behavior. Therefore, likelihood to recommend becomes crucial and positive word-of-mouth appears as a major search among higher education marketers.

This process requires educational institutions to carefully analyse the key factors contributing to student loyalty, in its many dimensions and therefore develop strategies accordingly. Thus, different levels of student loyalty can be identified in HEIs: same choice in same situation, same choice of career, same choice of university but different degree program, choice of master program after a degree program, positive recommendation of the degree, positive recommendation of the University…

Conceptual Framework:
Customer loyalty is understood as a consistent commitment deeply held by the customers to re-purchase the product or service in spite of situational impacts or promotional activities that can cause switching behaviour (Oliver, 1997). Furthermore, there are various phases of customer loyalty, which involves four stages (Oliver, 1997): cognitive loyalty, affective loyalty, conative loyalty and action loyalty. Loyal customers are more likely to recommend the source to other customers. Although personal characteristics may moderate this behavior, word-of-mouth (W.O.M.) is closely interrelated with customer loyalty, especially in services where repetition is not possible. Higher education is obviously one of these services.
In this light, various ways can be defined in perceiving customer loyalty in HEIs: re-purchase attitude and positive communications towards the same/other degree in the same/other University.

Objectives and Method:
This paper aims to understand the different levels of student loyalty in Higher Education institutions (HEIs) by means of an empirical study run with 705 graduate students from a private University in Valencia (Spain). Significant differences in the different levels of loyalty are looked for, according to sociodemographic characteristics of the students (sex, age, habitat…) and to the degree chosen (business, pedagogy, nursery, etc…)

Oliver, R. L. (1997) Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Higher Education Service, Consumer behaviour, Loyalty, Private Universities.