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E. Karuranga1, A. da Silva2, I. Kazumi Miura2

1Laval University (CANADA)
2Universidade de São Paulo (BRAZIL)
Universities all over the world are increasingly competing for talented students. However, the attraction of skilled students has received little attention in the scientific literature. To fill this gap, we conduct a survey of foreign students at 4 of the top ten universities in three different countries: Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and later on United Arab Emirates. A total of 700 questionnaires are analyzed. This abstract reports some preliminary findings on key determinants of international students’ decision to join the above-mentioned universities.

We first conduct a focus group to identify a set of items that lead to our preliminary questionnaire. Our focus group is followed by an exploratory factor analysis. Our study is exploratory in nature with constructs adapted from focus group discussions. Thus, it is conducted as an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) before testing the measurement model at a further step. EFA is the most appropriate first step when links between the observed variables and their underlying factors are unknown or uncertain. Hence, we conduct an EFA to reveal items structure per factor, to assess contributions of items to all factors, extract non contributing items, and verify the reliability of all factors as well as their multi-collinearity. A principal component analysis with varimax rotation reduce data to a small set of variables while retaining as much variance as possible.

The following rules are observed our data analysis: KMO and Bat sig >0.005, communalities >0.5, factor loading >0.5, and variance extracted >0.6. For the sake of parsimony, we suppressed all factors loading on two constructs as well as those showing loading inferior to 0.5. Four factors emerge for the four countries. The total variance explained by the four factors exceeds 60%. To pursue the analysis and find factors pertinent for the next steps, Cronbach’s Alpha reliability coefficients are computed for every construct with the acceptable level fixed at 0.6 as this is an exploratory study.

Based on preliminary findings, some determinants are common to the three countries, especially those related to the interest in discovering a new culture. However, the language as a dimension related to culture is not a key determinant for international students choosing Canada as a destination. Post-graduation work opportunities are common to the three countries. The low cost of living is shared by Mexico and Brazil while Canada is the only country among the three to show the quality of life as a key determinant for international students. Immigration after graduation and the prestige attached to Canadian degrees are present in the Canadian sample only. Peers’ influence is only determinant for international students in Brazil.

Further analysis of our data will include the controls based on country of origin, sex, age, level of education, as well as the impact of all the determinants previously discussed on the decision to return home or to stay in the host countries. Their influence on the international satisfaction level will also be assessed. This study, the first of its kind with a multi country approach, has both managerial and theoretical implications. Managers in charge of higher education marketing will find in its final version reliable instruments for their promotional campaigns. Our instruments and findings will contribute to the theory on the new international business and marketing of higher education.