International student complaint behaviour: how do East Asian students complain to their university?

David Hart, Nigel Coates

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    The growing acceptance that students can also be viewed as consumers of higher education (HE) has acted as a catalyst for universities to place greater emphasis on issues such as student satisfaction and retention. Indeed, the UK National Student Survey covered 152 institutions in 2009. However, far less attention has been paid to the concept of student complaint behaviour - that is, how students react when they become dissatisfied with their HE institution. Dissatisfied students have a variety of potential responses at their disposal, all of which can prove potentially damaging to the university. The current study considers the attitudes of East Asian students towards the act of complaining about their university. East Asian consumers are traditionally less prepared to voice dissatisfaction than their Western counterparts, and this may be exacerbated when dealing with high-ranked academic staff. In-depth interviews, utilising the laddering technique, were conducted with East Asian students at a university in the North East UK with the aim of exploring these attitudes. The findings suggest that whilst East Asian students are generally hesitant to class themselves as consumers of the educational product, this attitude can change rapidly in cases of dissatisfaction when they expect immediate redress. Respondents reported a high level of proactive behaviour in approaching relevant staff with their problems; however this was often done via informal conversations as opposed to formal complaint channels. This study adds to the growing body of literature that considers complaint behaviour in the context of HE, and is of practical value to anyone responsible for international student retention.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)303-319
    JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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