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D. Li1, M. Gallarza2, T. Fayos2

1Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (CHINA)
2Universidad de Valencia, Facultad de Economía (SPAIN)
Aims and scope:
Higher Education Institutions have become in the last decade a highly competitive market, where consumers (i.e. students) are highly involved in their choices, and managers need to focus on competitive edges (Theus, 1993). This paper aims to understand the factors that influence student’s value perception as a trade-off between costs and benefits found in higher education institutions (HEIs). In line with Ledden, Kalafatis and Samouel (2007), the paper investigates the role of functional, social and emotional values along with costs of time and effort: the focus is made on the multidimensionality of the experience of being a student (as a consumer of HE services) through the concept of value, known as a trade-off between benefits and costs (Zeithaml, 1988).

Information was gathered from 5 focus groups held with 26 international master students from 12 countries of origin, in three different countries (Spain, UK and China).
Table A. Summary of the Focus Groups
Focus Group A Tourism Master Students Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV)
Focus Group B International MBA students from University de Valencia (UV)
Focus Group C Erasmus Students from University of Valencia (UV)
Focus Group D Students from several UK Universities
Focus Group E Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GUFS)

Analysis and Results:
Keeping in mind the relevance of cross cultural understanding of the HE experience (Sulkowski and Deakin, 2009), the results show different levels of benefits: the functional value generally comes from infrastructures, quality of education, and good teachers. Social benefits come mainly form experiences outside the academic environment, and teamwork with colleagues who possess equal academic strength from different cultural backgrounds. Emotional rewards come form University reputation and relationships with instructors. Costs of time and effort are differently seen across programs and vary widely upon nationalities.
Relevant managerial implications are drawn in the marketing practices of higher education institutions, in line with their specificity (Kotler and Fox, 1995). Meanwhile, the research also illustrates that the interactions between the terms of culture and value perceptions help to explain the occurrences of distinctive phenomena regarding the prospective students in the purchase of a master course.

•Kotler, P., and Fox, K.F.A. (1995). Strategic Marketing for Educational Institutions, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
•Ledden L., Kalafatis, S. P. & Samouel, P. (2007). The Relationship between Personal Values and Perceived Value of Education, Journal of Business Research, 60, p 965–974.
•Sulkowski N, B. and Deakin, M.K. (2009). Does Understanding Culture Help Enhance Students’ Learning Experience? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 21(2), p 154-166.
•Theus, K.T. (1993). Academic Reputations: the process of formation and decay, Public relations review, 19(3), p 277-291.
•Zeithaml, V.A. (1988). Consumer Perceptions of Price, Quality, and Value: A Means-end Model and Synthesis of Evidence, Journal of Marketing, 52(3), p 2-22.