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Karim, Khondaker, Sazzadul1
Rahman, Md, Lutfor2


Ensuring quality education is a prerequisite for sustainable development. For finding the
determinants of quality tertiary education, studies suggest inclusion of relevant variables, as the
customers are well diversified with students, their parents and guardians, and academic and
administrative staff- each having different needs and objectives. Thus, this paper tries to incorporate
forty nine “Quality Characteristics” which previously found significant by various studies with a
few uniquely appropriate local characteristics. The characteristics have been grouped under six
different dimensions namely, tangibility, competence, attitude, content, delivery, and reliability. The
results show that the quality of private university education mainly depends upon the competence of
their academic and administrative staff, the content of their curriculum, reliability of the institution,
and the attitude of their staff. As far as the public universities are concerned, competence, content
and reliability are the variables significantly affecting the quality of their education.
Key Words: SERVQUAL Model, Quality Dimensions, Customers, Public Universities,
Private Universities


It has been over a decade that private university education has started in Bangladesh. As of today,
there are more than fifty private universities actively operating in this country. Though the number
is very large compared to the few public universities here, yet the general notion of preference
among the students, especially the better ones, for acquiring higher education, is still biased toward
the public universities. This situation has a big impact in terms of improvement in quality of higher
education in Bangladesh. Despite the fact that quite a number of the private universities are well
equipped with modern teaching tools and techniques, quality of education there have not been
Assistant Professor, Northern University Bangladesh
Assistant Professor, Northern University Bangladesh
improved. On the other hand, even though the demand for public university is still very high, due to
lack of competition the quality of education there is either stagnant or even deteriorating. But if we
look at the examples of other countries, both the developed and developing, we find that public and
private universities are competing against each other for improvement in quality of education for
attracting students.


The conceptual framework proposed for quality in higher education provides a basis for the
measurement and, consequently, improvement of quality of its environment. It is based on a study
of possible interpretations of quality dimensions in non-educational context as well as reviewing
published quality factors proposed for higher education. A first step in satisfying customer needs is
the determination of how quality dimensions/factors are perceived by different groups of customers.
This information, together with the prioritized objectives of a particular institution will form the
platform from which a quality program can be developed.


• To find out the major quality dimensions of public and private universities.

• To measure the effectiveness of each quality dimension of higher education in the context of


4.1 Quality Dimensions:

Quality dimensions, according to Gönroos (1990), can be classified into three groups: technical
quality, functional quality and corporate image. This is similar to those proposed by Lehtinen
(1991)- i.e. physical quality, interactive quality and corporate quality. The dimensions are
associated with technical quality that can be objectively measured regardless of customers’ opinion,
while those concerned with functional quality are related to the interaction between the provider and
recipient of the service and are often perceived in subjective manner. Sometimes, the interaction
between customers themselves become important; this is true for higher education when considering
the influence of students on one another. The corporate image dimension relates to the overall
picture of an organization perceived by the customers; it is the result of combination of technical
and functional quality dimensions as well as factors like the price of the products ( or service) and
the reputation of the company .

4.2 Quality Dimensions In Higher Education:

In the case of higher education, students and lecturers participate a great deal in the process, but
other groups like the employers deal mainly with the final product of the system, i.e. graduates. For
the students and lecturers themselves, the level of participation may vary in different processes.
This seems to support the hypothesis that dimensions of quality in higher education vary in level of
importance for different groups of customers. (Mohammad S. Owlia and Elaine M. Aspinwall,
2002). Despite recent research on general service’s quality dimensions, most of the works have been
concentrated on public services and in particular higher education. They examine models proposed
for different environments for a consistency with higher education. Although few references
addressed the quality dimension aspect directly, some useful elements were found in some studies.
From the “quantity features” developed by Ashworth and Harvey (1994), “quality criteria” by
Harvey et al. (1992), “alumni satisfaction scales” by Hartman and Schmidt (1995), “quality criteria”
by Jacobson (1992), “curricula design factors” by Izquierdo (1993), “quality dimensions” by Madu
and Kuei (1993), a quality questionnaire by Yorke (1993), and a quality function deployment
experiment (Ermer, 1995), factors detailing curriculum, examinations, staff capabilities and
equipment were identified. The results of Harvey et al. were based on an empirical study on the
opinions of all the stakeholders in higher education.

Adding the new items to the previous findings, 30 attributes called “quality characteristics” were
developed for the present study. Based on similarities, they were grouped into six dimensions
named tangibility, competence, attitude, content, delivery and reliability.

4.3 The Definition of Customer in Higher Education

Quality dimensions and customer groups in higher education, the definition of customer is quite
different from that in manufacturing or general servicing since groups such as students, employers,
academic staff, government and families are all customers of the station system with the diversity of
requirements. This is further exacerbated when it comes to the choice of quality dimensions.
Investigating framework for these reveals that all attributes do not render the same degree of interest
and feeling among different groups of customers. For example, call six dimensions are relevant to
students, but their applicability to academic staff and employers may be more tenuous because they

do not have the same level of contact with the corresponding processes. Employers as the “external
customers" of higher education are more concerned with “product” of the system, i.e. graduates, and
so the capabilities of graduates as well as the reliability of the institution to deliver them (Dimension
6) are of interest. Note that these attributes are important to two other groups of customers, i.e.
family and society (government), implying that employers can be regarded as representative for all
external customers. On the other hand, academic staff used university facilities (Dimension 1) that
interact with their colleagues, benefiting from their “competence” (Dimension 2) and they care
about the “contents” (Dimension 4), of the courses that teach as well as “credibility” (Dimension 6)
of the institution.

4.4 Research Questions and Variables, Constructs and Operation Definitions

The main research question, the study will try to answer is the following:
What are the major dimensions that affect the quality of public or private universities, and how can
we make private university education more attractive to students?


5.1 Types and Sources of Information

The study is mainly based on primary and secondary data. Primary data have been collected by
interviewing first year undergraduate students. Review of literature, journal and other relevant
books is also done for secondary information.

5.2 Sampling Plan

The first set of sampling design is to define the study population. Because of the time constraints,
we have restricted our study within the universities situated in and around Dhaka city. Then, the
study population is: the first year students of both public and private universities under Dhaka city.
It has not defined the potential entrants to universities, namely students of class 12, as the study
population. This is because we have to capture the differences in quality of education in public and
private universities and their effect on students’ preference and satisfaction level. The students of
class 12 will not be aware of a number of different facilities provided in public and private
universities. On the other hand, as the first year students have just enrolled in a university, they can
give us the information about all the facilities provided by the university that effect their level of
satisfaction. The senior students of the universities have also been excluded from the population, as
it is observed that the longer period of time they spend in the particular university, the more biased
they will be in providing the exact information.
As first step of devising the sampling frame for the study, we prepare a list of private and public
universities in Dhaka city. Savar has also been included as a peripheral region in listing the
universities. Our next stage of sampling frame is to prepare the list of students of the public and
private universities selected as samples. Because of the limited number of public universities in the
area under consideration, the criterion for selecting public universities is non-probabilistic. First we
select the sampling public universities on the basis of their size and nature. Then the students are
selected using a simple random sampling method. In the case of selecting private universities, we
clustered them in terms of cost of the education. The private universities in the city are divided into
three clusters, namely high cost, medium cost and low cost. After clustering the universities, we
select two universities from each cluster randomly. In the final stage of selecting the samples, the
students from these six universities are chosen using stratified random sampling criteria. The
stratification is done in terms of number of students in the clusters. Face to face interview with the
respondents are made and the interviewer filled in the questionnaire based on the respondent’s
verbal response to the questions.

5.3 Questionnaire Design And Pretest

The respondents responded to questions under each attribute on five point Likert scale with
“strongly agree” reflecting the highest level of satisfaction” “strongly disagree” indicating the
highest level of dissatisfaction. Some demographic questions are also in the questionnaire for more
in-depth interpretation of responses. The originally developed questionnaire has been pre-tested
with a few respondents to ensure quality of the questions in terms of preciseness, conciseness,
objectivity and understandability of the questions.


In principle, to estimate the factors affecting quality in higher education of different universities, the
key approach is to create quality of higher education as our qualitative variable. We have used the
quality of higher education as the dependent variable and the six dimensions of tangibility,
competency, attitude, content, delivery and reliability as the determinants independent variables. We
have run an OLS regression model to determine the significance level of the variables for tertiary
education in general and for the public and the private universities in particular. The basic model for
the study is therefore as follows:
Overall quality of higher education = ƒ (tangibles, competence, attitude, content, delivery and

QHE = α + β1X1 + β2 X2 + β3 X3 + β4 X4+ β5 X5+ β6 X6 + e
Where,QHE = Quality of Higher Education
X1 = tangibility
X2 = competence
X3 = attitude
X4 = content
X5 = delivery
X6 = reliability
Where, α is constant and β1, β2 , β3 , β4, β5, β6 are coefficients to estimate, and e is the error term,
which we assume as zero for this research. We will also run separate regression using the same
model for both the private and the public universities.


A total of 550 students responded to the questionnaire. After scrutinizing and quality controlling, a
total of 400 samples were accepted as valid which was about 73% of the total respondents. Of the
400 respondents, 200 were taken from the private universities and the remaining 200 were from the
public universities. The male respondents constitute 67% and the female 33% reflecting
approximately the overall proportion of the male female ratio for tertiary education in the country.

The descriptive study also shows the relationship between the family income and the type of
university enrolled. It is not surprised to find that most of the private university students enrolled are
from high income family. For example, the highest frequency of students belongs to the monthly
income range of Tk. 30,000-40,000 (23.5%) in the case of private university; where as the highest
frequency in the case of the public university belongs to the monthly income range of Tk. 10,000-
20,000 (36%). If income level of below Tk. 30,000 is taken as the middle income group of people,
about 60% of the private university students come from above middle income family. In the case of
public university, 68% of the students hail from either middle or lower income family.

Table 1 Descriptive statistics of the universities

Types of
Private University SQ determinants Mean Std. Deviation
Tangibility 2.869 .55389
Competence 3.959 .53459 Table one shows
Attitude 3.849 .69649
Content 3.716 .70643 the mean values
Delivery 3.923 .67644
Reliability 3.458 .55805
depicting the
Overall Service Quality of Higher overall
3.747 .76390
Tangibility 3.587 .63769
Public University

Competence 4.105 .51543 among the

Attitude 3.115 .78462
Content 3.797 .71043 students of
Delivery 3.375 .69887
Reliability 3.234 .53195 tertiary education.
Overall Service Quality of Higher
3.773 .75754 As far as our
statistics is concerned, the overall quality of higher education from student’s perspective, in
Bangladesh is above satisfactory level (with a mean value of 3.76 on a 5 point Likert scale).
Comparing between the private and the public universities, the level of satisfaction among students
stood at near similar level (which was 3.75 to 3.77 for private and public respectively).

The table also suggests the main factors on which the students of private and public universities are
generally satisfied. As far as the mean values are concerned, the private university students are fairly
satisfied on the competence level of their faculties, the delivery method of the teaching materials,
the attitude of the teachers and management, the contents, and reliability on the university, and less
satisfied on their tangible facilities such as libraries, hostels etc. On the other hand, the public
university students are quiet satisfied with the competence of their faculties, and fairly satisfied with
the content of their lessons, their tangible facilities, the delivery of the lessons, and reliability on the
university and teachers and management attitude towards them. However, a regression analysis is
required to run in order to identify if those means are above the neutral level of satisfaction, and to
determine the validity of the model used to explain the variables affecting the quality of higher
education in Bangladesh.
The overall regression model and its variance may be summarized as follows:
Table 2: Model Summary
R R Square Adjusted R Square Std. Error of the Estimate
0.626 0.392 0.383 0.59705
a Predictors: (Constant), Reliability, Tangible, Attitude, Competence, Content, Delivery

Table 3: ANOVA

Model Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig.

Regression 90.299 6 15.050 42.219 .000

140.094 393 0.356
230.392 399
a Predictors: (Constant), Reliability, Tangible, Attitude, Competence, Content, Delivery
b Dependent Variable: Quality of Higher Education

The overall predictability of the model is shown under the table 2 above. The adjusted R2 value of
0.383 indicates that the model explain roughly about 38% of the factors responsible for quality in
tertiary education. The ANOVA table shown under table 3 depicting significant F values implies
that the model is fit in explaining the overall quality of higher education in Bangladesh.
Table 4: Regression Coefficients Analysis of the Model
Unstandardized Standardized t Sig.
Coefficients Coefficients

B Std. Error Beta

(Constant) -.185 0.263 -.704 .482
TANGIBLITY 0.066 0.049 0.061 1.349 .178
COMPETENCE 0.402 0.071 0.280 5.684 .000
ATTITUDE 0.090 0.057 0.098 1.589 .113
CONTENT 0.266 0.056 0.248 4.735 .000
DELIVERY 0.015 0.069 0.015 0.218 .827
RELIABILITY 0.254 0.060 0.186 4.256 .000
a Dependent Variable: QHE

The intercept and coefficients shown above indicate the significant impact of only three variables,
namely, Competence, Content, and Reliability; and hence, the other three variables- Tangibility,
Attitude, and Delivery were dropped from the final analysis since we have rejected any value
greater than 0.01 (99% level of significance).
From the above findings we can develop the following regression model:

QHE = - 0.185 + 0.402 X1 + 0.266 X2 + 0.254 X3

S.E. (0.263) (0.071) (0.056) (0.060)
t values (5.684)** (4.735)** (4.256)**
R2 (Adj.) = 0.383, F = 42.219**
** - Significant at 99% level
Where, QHE = Quality of Higher Education
X1 = competence
X2 = content
X3 = reliability
When we run separate regression for both private and public universities, we find the significant
determinants affecting the quality of higher education among the two types of institutions remain
same with each other. At 99% level of significance, there are three variables significantly affecting

the quality of higher education in both private and public universities. As like our general model,
competence, content and reliability are found to be significantly affecting the quality in higher
education. Thus, it also suggests that attitude, delivery and tangibility are not significant in
determining the quality of higher education among the private universities. The table 5 below shows
the regression coefficients for both private and public universities, and their significance level.

Table 5: Regression coefficients of private and public universities

Unstandardized Standardized t Sig.
Types of University Coefficients Coefficients
B Std. Error Beta
Private University (Constant) -0.559 .367 -1.523 .129
TANGIBLE 0.107 .092 0.077 1.154 .250
COMPETEN 0.473 .098 0.331 4.828 .000
ATTITUDE 0.115 .089 0.105 1.289 .199
CONTENT 0.153 .085 0.142 2.102 .014
DELIVERY 0.069 .095 0.062 .732 .465
RELIABIL 0.244 .083 0.178 2.944 .004
Public University (Constant) 0.108 .400 .270 .788
TANGIBLE 0.015 .086 0.013 .178 .859
COMPETEN 0.291 .109 0.198 2.671 .008
ATTITUDE 0.102 .084 0.106 1.211 .227
CONTENT 0.347 .079 0.325 4.410 .000
DELIVERY 0.076 .105 0.070 0.729 .467
RELIABIL 0.322 .094 0.226 3.418 .001
a Dependent Variable: QHE

Based on the data found in the table above we can develop the following models for private
universities to measure the quality of their education:
QHE PR = - 0.559 + 0.473 X1 + 0.153 X2+ 0.244 X3
S.E. (0.363) (0.098) (2.085) (0.083)
t values (4.828)** (2.102)** (2.944)* *
R2 (Adj.) = 0.426, F = 25.569**
** - Significant at 99% level

Where, QHE PR = Quality of Higher Education for Private Universities

X1 = competence
X2 = content
X3 = reliability

On the other hand, The study found the following beta coefficient related to the three significant
variables for the quality of higher education in public universities.

QHE PB = 0.108 + 0.291X1 + 0.347X2 + 0.322 X3
S.E. (0.400) (0.109) (0.079) (0.094)
t values (2.671)** (4.410)** (3.418)**
R2 (Adj.) = 0.340, F = 18.065**
** - Significant at 99% level
Where, QHE PB = Quality of Higher Education for Public Universities
X1 = competence
X2 = content
X3 = reliability
As for the overall satisfaction among the students, 67.5% of the private university students said they
would recommend their universities to their friends and relatives. This ratio is slightly higher (71%)
in case of public universities. On the overall quality of education, 70% of the private university
students either agreed or strongly agreed that the overall quality is excellent, whereas 72.5% of the
public university students did so regarding there overall quality.


The government’s concern about the quality of higher education in both the private and public
universities has prompted people to come up with hypothesis favoring either of the types of
universities. Even though it was beyond the scope of this paper to find out which type of universities
perform better, it has, nevertheless, tried to identify the factors responsible for ensuring quality
education in both the types of institutions of tertiary education. Our findings basically used
SERVQUAL model as developed by Parasuraman et. al. (1988,1991) with some modification
adjusted in accordance with the local needs. However, in our case some of the variables used to
explain the quality of a service are found to be insignificant in explaining quality in higher
education. Our findings also suggest that there is a minor difference in the variables responsible in
explaining quality in higher education between private and public universities. The students of
private universities perceives competent teaching staffs, their educational background, experiences,
as well as the background of their friends and peers as the most important factors determining their
satisfaction. Thus, the private university authority should be concerned with these aspects to ensure
students’ satisfaction and quality education. The second most important factor that also should be
made available to the students of private university is their reliability which constitutes ensuring
proper internship and job placement services, timely publication of their results and classers, and

ensuring that the university stay free from politics, drugs, and remain safe for them. The third most
important aspect is the effectiveness and up-to-date curriculum of the university and its provision of
cross-disciplinary knowledge. The fourth important factor is again related to the teachers of the
private university- their attitudes, which include their willingness to help and provide guidance and

This study also suggests that the provision of tangible facilities such as hostels, library, and visually
appealing environment together with the delivery such as teaching presentation techniques, feed
back from the students are insignificant in determining the satisfaction of the students of the private

The study also suggests the policy makers of the public universities should ensure that the content,
reliability and competency remain the prime concern to ensure students satisfaction. Thus, the
public university authority should be highly concerned with its up-to-date curriculum that instill
team working capabilities, provide interdisciplinary knowledge, and help building good
communication skills. They also should give importance to its overall reputation to the corporate
world, publication of its results, and politics and drug free safe environment as well as to the quality
aspects of its teaching staffs.

As the study was done with the objective of finding out the quality of university education from the
customers perspective, students were taken as its only sample for the study. However, a
comprehensive study may be done using the other customers namely the guardians, and the
administrative staffs. The study has another limitation that for the public university, only the
universities situated in and around Dhaka were undertaken. Thus, a vast population of the public
universities was not considered for the study. Future research should take these aspects into


The authors like to express their heartfelt gratitude to Professor Dr. Azhar Uddin, Former Dean,
Faculty of Business and Professor M. A. Razzaque, head of the Department of Business
Administration , Northern University Bangladesh for their valuable comments and suggestions.

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in Education, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 10-13

Dimension 1 - Tangibles

My university has a rich library
There are enough hostel seats available in my university
Hostel seats are easy to obtain in my university
My hostel room is well furnished
Classroom in my university are well furnished
There are sufficient number of equipments in the labs of my university
My university has well equipped labs.
Modern teaching tools ( multimedia and overhead projectors) are frequently used in our classes
I can easily access the Libra resources
My university has a visually appealing environment
My university provides various opportunities for co and extra curricular activities

Dimension 2 - Competence
My university has sufficient number of teaching stuff
Educational background of the teachers are of good quality in my university
Teachers in my university are knowledgeable
Teachers in my university are highly qualified in terms of teaching expertise
Teachers are highly experienced in my university
It is easy to communicate with the teachers in my university
Academic background of my classmates are good in my university
My classmates are intelligent and meritorious

Dimension 3 - Attitude
Teachers in my university understand my specific needs
Teachers in my university are always willing to help
Teachers in my university are always available for guidance and advice
I can easily approach the teachers in my university
Teachers in my university give me individual attention
Teachers of my university instill confidence in me

Dimension 4 - Content
My university curriculum is relevant to my future jobs
My university curriculum is very effective
My university education helps me to develop good communication skills
My university education helps me to develop team-working capabilities
My university curriculum provides cross disciplinary knowledge

Dimension 5 - Delivery
My teacher use highly effective presentation techniques in class
My teachers provide sufficient consulting hours
My teachers are available when needed
Exams in my university are fair
My university takes regular feed back from students
My teachers are caring and friendly
Teachers show sincere interest in solving my problems

Dimension - 6 Reliability
My university ensures internship programs
Overall reputation of my university in the corporate sector is high
Job placement facilities are available in my university
My university awards meritorious students (e.g. Scholarship/financial aid/stipend etc.)
My degree ensures better prospects of getting a job
Classes are held regularly in my university
Results are published on time
My university completes the degree in due time
My university campus offers a safe environment
Students are politically involved in my university
Teachers are politically involved in my university
My university campus is free from drugs

Dependent Variables
Quality of Higher Education
Overall I am very satisfied with other facilities in my university
I would recommend my university's education to a friend or relative
If I had to start fresh, I would select the same university
The overall quality of education in my university is excellent