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H. Samma1, M. Gallarza 2, R. Sánchez-Fernández 3

1Bologna University (ITALY)
2University of Valencia (SPAIN)
3University of Almeria (SPAIN)
Nowadays, choosing and experiencing Higher Education (HE) services is a high involvement decision: there is a wide range of choices, students make their decision based on an expected value before experiencing the service, and they are exposed to a multitude of information sources. Both rational and emotional aspects are key drivers of the Higher Education service choice and these aspects have further effects on Satisfaction and Loyalty (as a positive word-of-mouth). Thus, understanding students’ behavior through consumption outcomes such as Consumer Value, Satisfaction and Loyalty can be a strategic lens for Universities’ positioning in a global realm (Gallarza et a., 2017; Ledden, et al. 2007).

All these concerns are particularly interesting to be studied in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of crisis we all suffered in March 2020 has been particularly important in the HE sector, as we had to change most of our offline courses into online, assuming a new interface with students. The aim pursued in this paper is to assess this change in terms of the different value dimensions experienced by students as consumers (Ledden et al., 2007) and the effects of these functional, emotional, social, epistemic, conditional and altruistic values on students’ Satisfaction and Loyalty towards the HEI.

The paper will share the preliminary results of a survey among students from different countries and levels and investigate, through a Causal Model, relationships and impacts of both positive and negative dimensions of Value on both student’s Satisfaction and attitudinal Loyalty towards the HEI where they passed the COVID-19 crisis.

Applying the well-known Value-Satisfaction-Loyalty chain, the model also includes three moderators:
- Psychological Capital described as a positive psychological state that includes self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience
- Social Support, that is related with the current social situation and support from the social surroundings of the student.
- Mental Overload as due to the e-learning’s environmental nature, students tend to be under more distractions than during a conventional frontal class, which is designed to improve the possibility of the learning process.

The proposed Structural Equation Model (SEM) is expected to show different intensities in the different links, where functional, emotional, social, epistemic, conditional and altruistic values are relevant antecedents of Satisfaction and Loyalty, in contrast with the costs and sacrifices perceived by the student because of the COVID crisis. Psychological Capital and Mental Overload will moderate this Value-Satisfaction-Loyalty chain.

[1] Gallarza, M. G., Šerić, M., & Cuadrado, M. (2017). Trading off benefits and costs in higher education: A qualitative research with international incoming students. The International Journal of Management Education, 15(3), 456-469.
[2] Ledden, L., Kalafatis, S. P., & Samouel, P. (2007). The relationship between personal values and perceived value of education. Journal of Business Research, 60(9), 965-974.
[3] Luthans, F., & Youssef, C. M. (2004). Human, social, and now positive psychological capital management. Organizational Dynamics, 33, 143-160.