European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.12, 2012ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361Xwww.BellPress.org 11
Student loyalty has a dynamic nature, subjected to many factors, such as perception of quality (Patric,2004), brand image (Beckwith & Lehman, 1975) and satisfaction (Hoyt & Howell, 2011) . Theinfluencing factors are termed as the ‘drivers’ of loyalty (Helgesen & Nesset, 2007). The student perception of the university service quality may influence satisfaction and their loyalty to theuniversity(Helgesen & Nesset, 2007),in the forms of intent to ‘re-register’ or take a higher level of study program offered by the university. University reputation as an overall attitude held by studentsalso has a positive impact on customer satisfaction (Johnson et al., 2001; Oliver, 1997).Students holda certain perception about the university, whether the university has a good reputation or not.Student perception of reputation is very important to attract and retain students (Standifird, 2005).Based on this schema of thinking, this study aims to explore the dynamics of student loyalty, inrelation to program quality, the brand image of the institution, and student satisfaction.
2. Literature Review
Studies of loyalty and customer satisfaction for goods and service is abundant (Zeithaml, Bitner &Gremler, 2006). Structural models to explore customer satisfaction, loyalty and related antecedents,such as product or service quality and brand image have been extensively used. Some principlesderived from these studies will benefit the efforts to market education, and in exploring whether the principles and findings in the business sector are transferable to education domain, or on the contrary,there is a different dynamics in the education sector compared to goods and service in business. Ineducation institution students are the major customers, however it should be understood that other stakeholders such as parents, employers, and the government, also constitute education customers(Marzo-Navarro, Pedraja-Iglesias, & Rivera-Torres, 2005). In this study students become the sourceof data and information.
Quality is characterized as an overall customer cognitive judgement about the excellence of a productor service across several areas, such as performance, courtesy, reliability, responsiveness, etc. (Petric,2004; Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry,1988). Drawing from Parasuraman’ domains of quality, thisstudy uses the concept of ‘program quality’ to include the dimensions of product and service. Thestudent perception of the program quality will likely influence their satisfaction toward the programitself and the university in general, and ultimately it will determine their decision whether todiscontinue or ‘re-purchase’ the service. If they decide to continue using the service, they may plan toreregister for the following semester, take another program, or attend a higher level program in theuniversity. Program qualityincludes indicators related to the learning service typical of distanceeducation program, incorporating Parasuraman’s SERVQUAL factors of empathy, assurance,responsiveness and reliability. In a distance education system, it is imperative for students to havegood learning skills and persistence to study independently and resourcefully. However, these qualitiesalone may not be sufficient for effective learning, since students will also need supportive andcondusive learning environment. In this respects, program quality will incorporate students perceptionof the learning material, the overall learning experience in face-to-face and online tutorials,assessments, the thesis advising, and thesis defence.
2.2. Brand image
Brand identity for a university refers to how the institution wants to be, and is perceived by prospective students, the existing students, alumni, legislators, and the public (Lawlor, 1998). Toenlarge scope and reach the targeted students, many universities intentionally develop a unique image.The Indonesia Open University builds an image by introducing a motto ‘making higher education