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AUQA Occasional Publication Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality F orum 2004 Perception of Quality in Higher Education Clare

Chua School of Business Management, Ryerson University, 125 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 2K3 Most of the quality models that are commonly practiced in the business world hav e been adapted and used in the education sector. In this paper, we proposed to look at the quality issue in higher education from the marketing perspective; that is, to first unde rstand the customers needs via their perception of quality. The aim of our paper is to asses s the quality attributes of higher education from various perspectives, namely from pa rents, students, faculty members and employers. We then classified these quality attrib utes using the Input Process Output framework. With the information obtained from our study, we suggest an integrated approach that will encompass a variety of quality practice s to manage quality issues in higher education. The bottom line is to improve quality in edu cation. 1. Introduction Managing quality in the education context should be handled differently from tha t of manufacturing or service industries (Madu & Kuei, 1993). The quality management models practiced by the business world have been adapted and applied to the education sector. In fact, quality in educa tion should begin at the school level (Koch & Fisher, 1998). For example, the Total Quality Management (T QM) philosophy has been applied to schools and colleges in the UK, USA, and in Asian countries such as Malaysia (Kanji & Tambi, 1998; Kanji & Tambi, 1999; Barnard, 1999). However, the education sector is not entirely comfortable with the TQM approach (Barnard, 1999). One of the fundamental princi ples of TQM is customer satisfaction. The schools felt that a TQM approach was not appropriate simply because they are not out to delight students who are their primary customers (Barnard, 1999). Alt ernatively, schools can use the quality practices such as the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) excellence model, ISO 9000, Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to improve performance. Even the most popular service quality methodology, SERVQUAL (Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry, 19 85; 1988), is also used to measure the quality in the education context. The models and concepts, s uch as EFQM, Singapore Quality Award (SQA), School Excellence Model (SEM) and Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA), are widely applied to educational institutions. These models embrace th

The purpose of this research is to assess how quali ty is perceived by different groups of customers. and consequently improve quality. we must fir st of all understand their needs. the caliber of students and the students performances on the job. faculty members and employers. Owlia and Aspinwall (1996) poi nted out that in order to measure quality. . therefore. The university views the students as their primary customers who receive the edu cational services. and extensive research has been done in this a rea to investigate the school performances in relation to the quality management philosophy. 1997). parents. and then to classify these perceived qualities into an Input Process Output (IPO) framework. it is necessary to find ou t the characteristics of quality. namely the students. corporations as custo mers who hire the students.e philosophy of TQM which has been modified for the education environment. and faculty members as customers who teach students the knowledge need ed to perform the job (Madu & Kuei. we can regard students as co nsumers purchasing the services provided by education. 1993). regarding the quality of education. Some see it as quality in teaching. People perceive quality differently. To improve quality services to these customers. the students have the right to obtain the best quality education. we must in turn understand the quality attributes embraced by the customers. we deal with different groups of customers. It is important to define the characteristics of quality for the measur ement of the education process (Cheng & Tam. parents as customers who pay for their children s education. In order to understand their needs. Applying the consumer behavior theory in education. Many schools and universi ties are realizing the benefits of these quality models. How do we meet the needs of our customers? In education. The information gained from the study will form the basis from which an appropriate quality model can be adopted to develop quality initiatives with regard to the education market.

Some of the quality dimensions identified in Owlia and Aspinwall s (1996) study are partially covered in the IPO framework. However.g. Zeithaml & Berry. The fram ework we proposed is derived from West. service quality dimension (Par asuraman. Classification of Quality in Education Context Owlia and Aspinwall (1996) interpreted the quality for higher education in terms of the quality dimension by using Garvin s quality framework (Garvin. the dimension identification frameworks focuses mainly on defining the quality aspect of the p roduct features (Garvin. 1988). 1988). Zeithaml & Berry. 1985. We adopt ed a more comprehensive approach to classify the quality attributes of education. 1987). 1987).g. Process refers to the teaching and learning process. and software quality dimension (Watts. and Output refers to the employabilit y and academic standings (as shown in Figure 1 below). products and services) via the process (e. Figure 1 The Input Process Output framework of quality classification EDUCATION SYSTEM INPUT PROCESS OUTPUT Selection of Teaching and learning Financially students Content and delivery rewarding job Entry of course units Placement requirements Professor s Academic knowledgeability performance Accuracy of . procedures). Noden and Gosling (2000) s viewpoint of quality in higher educa tion.g. raw materials) into outputs (e. 1985. We called it the Input Process Output (IPO) framework in which Input refers to the entry requiremen ts. including those from the educatio n sector. In this way.Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality Forum 2004 AUQA Occasional Publication 2. one can associate the quality improvements with the operating system of any organization. 1987) and service features (Parasuraman. This classification of quality attribute s is in accordance with the organization s operation system of converting the inputs (e.

The survey was conducted on the first day of class commencement.curriculum content Concern for students Instruction medium Social activities Assessments 3. We adopted the definition for the SERVQUAL dimens ions (see Appendix) from Galloway (1998). We also asked the survey respondents to give suggestions for i mprovement. fac ulty members and employers as our higher education customers. Zeithaml & Berry. Out of the 35. 1985. 1988). only 27 parents returned the questionnaires. assurance and empathy (Parasuraman. Empirical Study We designed a questionnaire where in Section 1 we asked the respondents for thei r opinions on quality in higher education. The questionnaire was given to 35 t hird-year students. reliability. responsiveness. In our study. parents. T hese 22 items reflect the five service dimensions of tangibles. we mailed the same questionnaire to 60 firms: it was routed to the human resource managers. . The same survey for m was given to the parents of the students who enrolled in the same course. Only 12 questionnaires were sent back. we included students. we have 22 items of expectation and perception statements (see Appendix A). In additio n. In Section 2. Ten faculty members completed the same questionnaire.

Employers suggested better relevancy of knowled ge and more soft skills integrated into the courses. On the other hand. Table 1 Classification of quality attributes Customers Input Process Output Student n=35 21 142 142 305 Row percent 6.02% 27. feedback.AUQA Occasional Publication Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality F orum 2004 4.52%) and output (46. we su ggest that an integrated quality model would be a better model for addressing the quality issue. and encouragement for lifelong learning. In light of this finding.52% Faculty n=10 85 85 66 236 Row percent 36. assessments to inspire lear ning.52%) quality. This feedback into the system can indirectly prepare students for entry into the workforce. parents. The data suggested that the faculty s perspective of qual ity is wider in view than the other customers. however. The attributes of a quality educatio n encompass the processes at each and every stage of the learning cycle. Parents would like to have open communication.02% 36. provision for a variety of advising servi ces.73% The students gave most of the suggestions of improvement pertaining to the proce ss of the education system to achieve quality output. All the respondents provided more than one quality at tribute. the parents seemed to think that quality should be in terms of input (46. input.56% 46.27%) and output (58. The university should solicit feedback from employers. Findings The results of the survey are summarized in Table 1. participation in curriculum design. provision for various support services for students. The students perspective of quality falls into mainly the process (46. Some of the suggestions mentioned were caring professor.73%) quality only.27% 58.e.97% Employer n=12 0 26 37 63 Row percent 0.00% 41.89% 46. process and output. The finding supports the fact that di fferent groups of customer have different perspectives of quality. th us the notion of quality extends beyond the confines of the classroom. The number of quality attributes and row percentages are presented in Table 1 below. the employers considered qu ality in terms of process (41. from commencement of st . They also noted that there is a large variation in terms of quality teaching such as contents.52% 6. process and output). It would then address the needs of the four groups of customers: students. They believed that the education system should focus on all aspects of their activities (i. faculty and employers.95% 46.56%) categories.56%) and ou tput (46. We classified the responses of the customers into input.56% Parents n=27 87 13 87 187 Row percent 46.

. for most dimensions. The results of Table 2 show that.udies right up to the student s exit from the system. This perception of quality suggests that it is a d ynamic process rather than just a static process measured at any particular point in time. By using the paired t-test we found that all dimensions except reliability are significant. parents and emp loyers expect more than what they perceive the school would provide. the faculty members are satisfie d in all the dimensions except for tangibles and assurance. In general. students.

13 Notation: * significant < 0.25 Gap (Per-Exp) -1.97 -1.06 5.05 t-value -3.65 Gap (Per-Exp) -0.06** -0.68 t-value -5.63 5. Table 3 Relationship of SERVQUAL dimensions to IPO framework SERVQUAL Dimensions IPO Framework Tangibles Process Reliability Process Responsiveness Process Assurance Process Empathy Process A high-quality university education is not mainly focused on the quality of the educational process in and by itself.05 6. .68 t-value -5.02 -0.33** -4.78** -2.63 0.60 Gap (Per-Exp) -0.58 -0.01.33 4.25 5.02 5.46 4.83* Reliability Expectation 6.68 -2.36** -5.10 -0.50 Gap (Per-Exp) -1.25 5.81 6.66 Assurance Expectation 5. a negative gap indicates that expectation exceeded perception.02 -1.53 4.06 6.08 -0.90 5. It requires an explicit framework that links all the requisite stages in the system. ** significant < 0.33 6.03 -0.24** -1.36 -1.20 4.08 5.05.11 6.62 Perception 5.23 Responsiveness Expectation 6.87 Gap (Per-Exp) -1.94 6.89 -1.93 Perception 4.60 Perception 4. We tried to relate the SERVQUAL dimensions to our IPO framework and found that a ll the quality dimensions are primarily related to the educational process (see Table 3).78 -1.99 5.56 -1.34* 0.92** -1.56 4.04 6.00 -0.21 5.02 t-value -2.18 Perception 4.98 5.78 -1.Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality Forum 2004 AUQA Occasional Pu blication Table 2 Customers school expectation.40* -0.55 5.00 Perception 4.17 -0. perception and gap means of service quality in the SERVQUAL Dimensions Students Parents Employers Faculty Tangibles Expectation 5.34** -2.00 5.07 5. a positive gap indicates that perception exceeded expectation.39* Empathy Expectation 5.06 6.25** -0.84** -3.13 t-value -8.90 5.98 6.53 -3.17 6.92 5.51 -6. The SERVQUAL dimensions can be revised in such a way that its measurements of qualit y can be incorporated into the framework already established by the IPO model.29** -5.

academic pl acement). employability. 5(3). Y. faculty members and employers under stands the concept of quality with regards to higher education in different ways. Faculty members perceived quality as relating to the whole education system (i.AUQA Occasional Publication Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality F orum 2004 5. the university has to focus on all aspects of the education system. process and output). Business Communication Quarterly. J. The integrated approach of using several techniques in the measurement process is co mmonly practiced by successful firms (Ahmed & Rafiq.. 61 73. The measurement and study of dynamic quali ty management will be a challenge for researchers in the service-oriented industries like the retail trades. Using total quality principles in business courses: The effe ct on student evaluations. students. The result seemed to suggest that.g.g. 225 242. input. Cheng. (1998). faculty members and employers perceptions in terms of education quality attributes and ho w these differences affect the types of policy and planning choices selected. Integrated benchmarking: A holistic examinatio n of select techniques for benchmarking analysis. process and outpu t differ among the recipients of the service provided. P. Benchmarking: An International Journal. In fact. in order to meet the needs of each group. Barnard.. Parents view quality as relating to input (e. the skil l set that the student brings to the workplace). (1999). K. reputations) and output (e. courses and teaching) and outputs. Employers saw quality as primarily related to the output (e. ranking of the schools. It would also be interesting to look at st udents. students saw quality as relating to the educational process (e. W. M. most universities engage in a variety of practices in order to achieve a high level o f quality in education. SQA. and education in particular. SEM and MBNQA all strive to adopt a comprehensive approach to quality improvemen t. & Tam. parents. The distributions of the quality attributes in terms of input. On the other hand. C. students. Our Input Process Output framework of quality classification serves as a n entry point into such a future system of quality assessment. 62(2).g. 1998). One important issue that we have not addressed is: how do we evaluate the differences in perceived quality among parents. Conclusion It is not surprising that parents. faculty m embers and employers? Further investigation into this topic will provide a basis for policy and qualit y improvement plans undertaken by education institutions. (availa .g. References Ahmed. Multi-models of quality in education. The quality mode ls such as EFQM. M.e . & Rafiq. (1997).

Quality Assurance in Education.. Kanji G. (1993). 101 109. Higher education and total quality manageme nt. 10(1). A. L. M. 5(1).. . (1998). 129 153. D..ble at http://lysander. K. Quality perceptions of internal and external customers: A c ase study in educational administration. The TQM Magazine. & Kuei. J. Total Quality Management in UK higher edu cation institutions. V. 10(1). Galloway. (1999). Koch. 130 132.emeraldinsight. Dimensions of quality teaching in higher i nstitutions. (1987). A. & A. Kanji G. Total Quality Management. N. L. Garvin.. 4(3). 20 26. Madu. 659 668. Total Quality Management. Harvard Business Review. 65(6). & Fisher. 325 338. 9(4/5). Total Quality Management. Total quality management and higher educa tion in Malaysia. Tambi. Total Quality Management. & A. Competing on eight dimensions of quality. J. (1998). Tambi. A. C. K. 22 31. 9(8). (1998). Chu-Hua. ).

Parasuraman. O xford.A. SERVQUAL: A multiple-it em scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality. Quality Assurance in Education. 12 37. P.. (2000). L.. Quality in higher education: An inter national perspective. 17. M. (1988).. L. E. (1985). R.. V. 12 20. R. Measuring software quality. Noden. & Aspinwall. A framework for the dimensions of quali ty in higher education.. London School of Economics and Political Science. The National Computer Centre. Parasuraman. & Berry.. 41 50. West. Zeithaml. V. (1987). A conceptual model of se rvice quality and its implications for future research. & Gosling. A. The views of transnational corporations. (1996). L. Journal of Retailing.. 4(2).L. 64(1). A. Zeithaml. Watts. & Berry. Market Papers no. A. M.Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality Forum 2004 AUQA Occasional Pu blication Owlia. A. S. A. 49.. Journal of Marketing. .

and communication materials.g. E18: School office and facilities (e. RE7: The school office gets my requests right first time. library) opening hours are personally convenient. Reliability The school s ability to RE5: I can depend on the school office s promise s. A14: The behavior of school office staff/faculty instills confidence in me. E20: School office staff/faculty take care to understand my request. T1: The school office is equipped with modern technology. T3: The school office staff/faculty dress smartly. Empathy The school office staff s ability to provide a caring and individualized attention to students. RS11: School office staff/faculty give me prompt service. E19: School office staff acknowledge my arrival at the reception desk. A15: I feel safe in my transactions with school office staff.AUQA Occasional Publication Proceedings of the Australian Universities Quality F orum 2004 Appendix SERVQUAL Dimensions Definition SERVQUAL Statements Tangibles The appearance of the school physical facilities. T2: The school office has a professional appearance. A16: School office staff/faculty are always polite. equipment. RS12: School office staff/faculty are always willing to help me. E17: School office staff/faculty are knowledgeable when answering my questions. . RS13: The school office is never too busy to help me. T4: School office/faculty communication with me is clear and helpful. Responsiveness The school s willingness to help students and provide prompt service. accurately. perform the promised services dependably and RE6: The school office shows a sincere interest in helpi ng me. Assurance The knowledge and courtesy of school office staff/faculty and their ability to convey trust and confidence. RE9: School office information is error free. RS10: School office staff/faculty tell me exactly when they are able to attend to my request. RE8: The school office fulfils commitments it makes to me. personnel.