Service quality in postgraduate education



Publication Details

Angell, R. J., Heffernan, T. W. & Megicks, P. (2008). Service quality in postgraduate education. Quality Assurance in Education, 16 (3), 236-254.


Purpose - Measuring service quality in higher education is increasingly important for attracting and retaining tuition-based revenues. Nonetheless, whilst undergraduates have received substantial academic exposure, postgraduate-based research has been scant. Consequently, the objectives of this paper are threefold: first, to identify the service factors used by postgraduates in their quality evaluations. Second, to analyse the appropriateness of importance-performance analysis (IPA) in the measurement of service quality and, final, to provide a working example of IPA's application in a UK-based university.

Design/methodology/approach - Convergent interviews were used to elicit attributes of service that were deemed important by taught postgraduate students. These findings were then tested using an online survey. Exploratory factor analysis was used to group the service attributes into latent "service factors". Each service factor was then tested for service quality using Martilla and James's IPA technique.

Findings - About 20 service attributes were educed from the qualitative stage. From these, four service factors emerged; being, academic, leisure, industry links and cost. Using IPA in a UK university, the findings suggest that the "academic" and "industry links" aspects of service quality are the most critical to postgraduates. The paper's conclusions suggest that IPA is an appropriate tool for measuring service quality in postgraduate education.

Practical implications - Through the application of the IPA framework presented in this research, practitioners can successfully identify areas of service priority and thus allocate appropriate resources to encourage continuous service improvement.

Originality/value - This research provides a valuable insight into the service quality needs of the UK postgraduate segment and also a potential conceptual framework for policy makers to use when evaluating their service delivery.

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