Higher education service quality, student satisfaction and loyalty. Validating the HESQUAL scale and testing an improved structural model

Publication Date14 October 2019
AuthorViraiyan Teeroovengadum,Robin Nunkoo,Christian Gronroos,T.J. Kamalanabhan,Ashley Keshwar Seebaluck
SubjectEducation,Educational evaluation/assessment
Higher education service quality,
student satisfaction and loyalty
Validating the HESQUAL scale and testing an
improved structural model
Viraiyan Teeroovengadum and Robin Nunkoo
Department of Management, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius
Christian Gronroos
Hanken Svenska Handelshogskolan Foretagsledning och organisation,
Helsingfors, Finland
T.J. Kamalanabhan
Department of Management, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, and
Ashley Keshwar Seebaluck
Department of Management, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius
Purpose The purpose of this study is to validate the higher educationservice quality (HESQUAL) scale
using a conrmatory approach and test an improved structural model that predicts student loyalty from
image, perceivedvalue, satisfaction and service quality. In additionto validating the HESQUAL scale using a
conrmatoryapproach, two other main limitations in the extant literature are addressed.
Design/methodology/approach The model is tested using data collected from 501 students enrolled
in different higher educationinstitutions in Mauritius. A two-stage approach to structuralequation modeling
is used whereby the measurementmodel is rst tested using conrmatory factor analysisand followed by the
assessmentof the structural model.
Findings Importantly, resultsindicate that student satisfaction is inuenced by technicalservice quality,
image and perceivedvalue, but not by functional service quality. Both dimensions of servicequality however
are signicant predictorsof image and perceived value. The study uses a comprehensive measure ofservice
quality and demonstrates that it is worthwhileto consider functional service quality as higher-order model
and clearly distinguishbetween functional and technical quality, as both the technical andfunctional aspects
play an importantrole in shaping studentsperceptionsand behaviors.
Originality/value First, in the existing literature,service quality has not been considered as a second-
order factor model in structural models of student satisfaction and loyalty,thus lacking either precision or
parsimony. Second, the transformative quality aspect of higher education has been largely neglected in
previous researchtesting such predictive models. The model delineatesservice quality into the functional and
transformative (technical) aspects and treats functional service qualityas a second-order factor comprising
nine sub-dimensions.
Keywords Loyalty, Perceived value, Service quality, Satisfaction, Image, Higher education
Paper type Research paper
Service quality and related marketing concepts such as customer satisfaction and loyalty
have been rarely used in the higher education sector in the past. At most, they have been
Validating the
Received9 January 2019
Revised6 May 2019
20July 2019
Accepted21 July 2019
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.27 No. 4, 2019
pp. 427-445
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-01-2019-0003
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
seen as ad hoc components that added somevalue to universities, but not a necessity to their
survival. However, the past decades have seen unprecedented changes in the landscape of
higher education (Chong and Ahmed, 2015;Dennis et al.,2016). Gone are the days when
universities had a secured demand for their services. Institutions that were previously
accessible to the societal elites only, now have to compete to attract students and gain
market share. While only few prestigious universities still have the liberty of admitting
students of their choice, the majorityneeds to compete in an open market characterized by a
wide variety of choices (Latif et al.,2017). Among the factors leading to such a competitive
environment are the internationalization of higher education (Harvey and Williams, 2010;
Sultan and Wong, 2010), the rise of private universities (Halai,2013) and a decrease in state
funding for public universities(Quinn et al.,2009).These, accompanied by a general increase
in tuition fees, have amplied the perception that higher education is now a private good
rather than a publicgood (East et al.,2014;Marginson, 2011;Nixon et al.,2016).
As competition in higher education becomes intense, such concepts as service quality,
student satisfaction, image of the institution and student loyalty that did not gure in the
strategic plans of universities have suddenly become key ingredients for their survival
(Dennis et al., 2016;Manatos et al., 2017;Psomas et al., 2017). Largely inuenced by the
marketing literature, research on this topic has generally focused on higher education
service quality (HESQUAL) and related concepts such as student satisfaction, perceived
value and image (Alves and Raposo, 2007;Bassi, 2019;Brown and Mazzarol, 2009;Chong
and Ahmed, 2012;Latif et al.,2017;Pham and Lai, 2016). However,the application of quality
and marketing concepts to higher education is still relatively at the infancy stage, resulting
in a number of knowledge gaps.
Service quality in higher education comprises functional and transformative aspects
(Teeroovengadum et al.,2016). While the functional component of service quality relates to
the delivery process (Brady and Cronin, 2001), transformative quality in education, as
conceptualized by Harvey and Green(1993), relates to the technical aspect of service quality
(Teeroovengadum et al.,2016). Bearing this in mind, a rst limitation of existing studies is
that the notion of transformative service quality has been neglected in the majority of
studies on service quality assessments and in student satisfaction and loyalty models for
higher education institutions. An important goal of higher education institutions is the
transformation of learners through teaching and learning (Leibowitz and Bozalek, 2015).
While market-orientedinitiatives of universities bring about various positive outcomessuch
as an increase in market share and better nancial performance,too much focus on nancial
gains is detrimental to educational processes and outcomes such as the transformation of
students. This is why researchers emphasize on the need for higher education institutions
and researchers to focus on the notion of transformative service quality (Zachariah, 2007).
One would have expected researchers to have assessed the transformative dimension of
service quality in higher education as part of quality assessment exercises. Surprisingly,
studies have omitted this dimension, making existing measurement scales and models of
HESQUAL incompleteand theoretically limited.
Second, it is common for researchers interested in quality assessments in higher
education to develop structuralmodels which include service quality as a predictorvariable
(Alves and Raposo, 2007;Brown and Mazzarol, 2009). Such studies not only focus on the
functional aspects of service quality, omitting the technical dimensions, but also
conceptualize functional service quality as a unidimensional construct. However, in reality,
functional service quality is multidimensional, comprising various sub-dimensions which
several studies failto consider (Ladhari et al.,2011).

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