Service Quality Imperative for Quality Assurance in Higher Education: A Case Study

Service Quality Imperative for Quality Assurance in Higher Education: A Case Study

Vannie Naidoo (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9829-9.ch019
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In higher education, quality is often looked at from an education perspective. This chapter will take another stance by analyzing and discussing service quality within tertiary education from a marketing perspective. The literature review put forward by various theorists argues that service marketing has evolved over time, as more research has been conducted on service quality and how it impacts on the customer/clients. Since tertiary education forms part of service marketing, this chapter aims to identify the quality variables attached to this service sector and illustrate how each quality variable affects the students and staff within the university environment. Service quality, if developed and implemented accordingly within a higher education institution, can become an important element that a university can use as a competitive advantage. This in turn can yield long-term benefits to the organisation.
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The landscape in higher education is continuously transforming. The concept of quality has become an important component that universities have to incorporate into those service offerings. Policy makers and management of Higher education institutions’ have recognised that service quality from a marketing perspective can be a valuable tool that can assist a tertiary institution to become competitive in the higher education sector. To set itself apart in the tertiary education sector a university has to develop superior service excellence in its programs, curriculum, and its core service offerings to its students. Excellence in service quality can become a major competitive advantage that can attract international and local students to tertiary institutions programs and increase its long-term growth and sustainability in the higher education sector for future generations to come. Tertiary institutions have a responsibility to be market driven. Monies have to be invested in understanding the needs and perceptions of its’ diverse student population so that high levels of service quality can be provided in both academic and support services accordingly.

The following key areas would be discussed in detail in this chapter:

  • Conceptualising service quality

  • Reviewing service quality within tertiary institutions

  • Services provided by a university.

  • Approaches to managing service quality at University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

  • The way forward: recommendations to improving service quality within higher education

The discussion will begin with conceptualising service quality.


Conceptualising Service Quality

An important phenomenon-taking place within the higher education sector is that universities all over the world are becoming more aware of the need for quality. The global financial crisis has placed a major strain on the world economies. University management worldwide have been tasked with coming up with more inventive ways to attract students into their programs as tertiary education is seen as a luxury than a necessity. According to studies conducted by Aldridge and Rowley (2001), Oldfield and Baron, (2000), measuring service quality within higher education is a global phenomenon. Sultan and Wong (2011) argue that service quality research in higher education sector is new, at least when compared with the commercial sector. Harvey and Williams (2010) adds that over the past decades quality of teaching and learning has become a major strategic issue in tertiary education systems across universities world-wide.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Competitive advantage: This refers to what makes a university’s service offering superior to its competitors.

Service quality: refers to excellence provided to the end customer in the service offering provided.

Academic Service: Refers to all the academic services provided by academic staff in teaching and learning to students.

Higher Education: This refers to tertiary education provided to students in universities and colleges.

Support Services: This refers to professional support services that staff at the university/ college provide to students that can assist them in their academic endeavours at the university or college.

Quality Assurance: This refers to how a university for example maintains high levels of quality in its’ respective education degrees.

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