Since 1952 students at English universities have received grants towards covering the cost of their university education. Nevertheless, in September 1998, students for the first time were expected to contribute towards the cost of their undergraduate education in the form of tuition fees. More recently, the student contribution has increased to the point where in 2012 students will be paying a major contribution to their undergraduate tuition fees and by many people may be considered as ‘customers’ of education. The aim of this marketing thesis is to investigate how ‘Discrete Choice Experiments’ provide an alternative approach within consumer behaviour theory to estimating course level decision making in English Higher Education. To do this, it introduces the marketisation of the English Higher Education sector, and explores the consumer behaviour literature in the areas of student choice and consumer reservation price. Whilst the attributes that influence student choice of university have been explored, explicit research has failed to use discrete choice theory to examine the attributes that influence choice of course. Furthermore, despite the practical importance of knowing how much prospective students would pay for their undergraduate course, there remains limited research into estimating consumer reservation price in the marketing field. This thesis establishes a preliminary model which provides a greater insight into the attributes and levels that have a significant influence on student choice of course. This model is then used to underpin the primary research conducted within this thesis using a discrete choice experiment. The sample population was Years 12 and 13 students based at two North-east secondary schools. Although the study was restricted to only focusing on the North east of England, findings reveal students are willing to pay more for degree course that have better access to good quality student accommodation and have a higher number of teaching hours. This suggests that universities that offer newly refurbished accommodation and offer greater levels of contact time could justify charging higher fees. Based on the findings of the discrete choice experiment the contributions to theory and methodology of this thesis are the development of a checklist containing the factors to consider when constructing a discrete choice experiment along with the application of a discrete choice experiment contextualised for the English Higher Education sector. Moreover this provides a basis for future discrete choice experiment research in the marketing field.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 2012|