388 Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2
JEL Classification: A20, H75, I23
Riga Technical University,
D.Sc., Riga Technical University,
Student Union of Latvia,
STUDENT AS STAKEHOLDER: “VOICE OF CUSTOMER” IN HIGHER EDUCATION
According to the continuous improvement principles, all Higher Education Institutions (hereafter – HEIs) focus on
the requirement to improve organizational processes and achieve quality, create added value and achieve
stakeholders’ satisfaction. The aim of the research is to analyse the concept “quality in higher education”, define the
stakeholders within the system of higher education and to analyse students’ opinion about the importance and
performance of the factors of quality of higher education. The research methods are a literature overview, analysis
and synthesis, logical and comparative analysis, as well as Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA). The results of
analysis showed that there are two global strategies for defining quality of higher education. The first strategy is
process-oriented, the second used the specific indicators (administrative, student support, instructional; procedural
quality; student performance, employability etc.). The research results show that the concept of quality is very
complicated and depends on different factors, objectives of the organisation and personal experience. It is clear that
students are the most important stakeholders; quality of the academic staff and study programmes are the most
important elements in ensuring quality of higher education; organisation of the study process and delivery of study
programmes are the most important activities. The factors that should be considered in the future are Clear
achievement assessment and feedback, Teaching methods, Student-centred learning, State subsidized studies
according to quality criteria and Funding of higher education. As a perspective for investigation, it would also be helpful
to find out why students consider extracurricular activities (sports, arts, etc.) and HEI reputation as factors with a low
impact on quality of education, but so much attention is paid to them.
Keywords: quality in higher education, stakeholder, Stakeholder Theory, added value.
Introduction. The modern epoch is characterised by indefiniteness, fragmentation, de-canonization,
pessimism, “everyone has their own truth”, denial of authority, personal opinions are often placed above
the truth, personal experience – above science, individual needs stand more important than those of the
society. Conversely, values of higher education stem from the Enlightenment that was characterised by
optimism, inquisitiveness, science, conscientiousness, learning from previous generations and following
the framework of existence. Nowadays they are substituted by denial of time restrictions and norms. This
is an essential contradiction that has to be overcome in the modern education system.
The concept of quality is still frequently misrepresented and/or misunderstood with a lot of problems
to identify the stakeholders involved with the institution or to concretely establish the needs of stakeholders
and the level of impact (Dobni and Luffman, 2003; Doherty, 2008; Pounder, 1999). According to Mainardes
et al. (2010), the Stakeholder Theory is highly useful to higher education institutions. Stakeholders can
Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2 389
effectively represent opportunities or threats to an organisation (Chapleo and Sims, 2017).
The aim of the research is to analyse the concept “quality in higher education”, define the stakeholders
within the system of higher education and to analyse students’ opinion about the importance and
performance of the factors of quality of higher education. The research methods are literature overview,
analysis and synthesis, logical and comparative analysis, and Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA).
Literature overview: Quality in Higher Education. There are different understanding and usage of
the concept “quality assurance”, the concept imported into higher education from the world of business
(and primarily from the sector of manufacturing) like the related term “quality control” (Mazais et al., 2012;
Nicholson, 2011). The main differences between the world of business and education are related to the
perception of the goal and values of higher education. For example, Quality results from expertise of
professoriate (in Education) vs. Quality results from producer’s expertise (in Business), External rankings,
such as Macleans Resource orientation (in Education) vs. Acceptable performance at an acceptable price
(in Business), Outcomes meet specified requirements (in Education) vs. Quality defined by costumers`
needs and preferences (in Business). In the business environment, quality is seen from the perspective of
a client, whereas in education the perception of quality is multi-faceted, thus, more complicated.
A singular view of quality of higher education is not possible, sometimes it is conflicting and always
depends on the views of stakeholder groups (Cullen et al., 2003). HEIs can be seen as both a service and
a product (Garvin, 1984; Newton, 2007). In addition, education and research is not only a service in its
traditional understanding. The specifics of this field are that the education system provides public service
that the theory of economics refers to as “public goods and services with the highest value” (Lapina and
Aramina, 2011; Mazais et al., 2012).
There are two global strategies for defining quality of higher education. The first strategy is process-
oriented including elements of the Input – Process – Output (hereafter: IPO model) (Table 1).
On the one hand, quality can be seen as meeting minimum requirements. On the other hand, quality
is seen as excellence. The concept of quality ranges from meaning “standards” to meaning “excellence”.
It is impossible to draw the line between levels of requirements, as well as it is impossible to separate the
requirements of quality of input, process and output. Quality standards and principles used by HEIs to a
great extent depend on national and international requirements and guidelines, socio-economic
conditions, the short-term goals and needs, the long-term strategy, organizational life cycle, as well as
management style, etc. (Frolova and Lapina 2015; Lapiņa et al. 2015; Rivža, et al. 2015; Straujuma et al.
2017). Excellence is a performance stage of exclusiveness and the highest level of satisfaction of the
stakeholder (Bank CM and Bank M, 2014).
In the second strategy, the specific indicators are used. Indicators that focus more on inputs are
administrative, student support, instructional (Schindler et al., 2015; Lagrosen et al., 2004), on process –
procedural quality (Sallis, 2002), on outputs – student performance, employability etc. (Støren and
Literature overview: Stakeholders within the system of higher education. Stakeholder Theory,
elaborated by Freeman in 1984, or a stakeholder approach in the strategic management of an organization
means introducing and implementing such a strategy that would satisfy the interests of all stakeholders. It
can ensure the long-term success of the organization (Lapiņa et al., 2013). When providing quality of
higher education, HEIs are affected by several stakeholders (Fig. 1). In the context of Stakeholder Theory
and quality of higher education, the authors have chosen the IPO model. At every IPO model stage, the
stakeholders’ impact is different. According to Angappapillai and Annapoorani (2012), parents’ impact can
be larger at the Input and Output stage because parents assess quality of education through the prism of
investments and results. Students are actively involved at the Process and Output stage, whereas faculty
members assess quality of education in the context of the whole education system. Employers always
assess quality of education by students’ skills and ability to compete on the labour market.
I. Degtjarjova, I. Lapina, D. Freidenfelds. Student as Stakeholder: “Voice Of Customer” in Higher Education
390 Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2
Table 1 – Understandings of the concept “quality of higher education”
Elements in the Input
Quality as specifications and
Gilmore, 1974; Crosby, 1979 cited by Choon et al., 2010; Kavosa et
Elements in the Process
Quality as defect avoidance in
Crosby, 1979 cited by Choon et al., 2010; Kavosa et.al. (2018)
Quality as perfection (zero defects)
National quality management and organisational values in higher
Quality within mission, quality as fitness
Bogue, 1998; National quality management and organisational
values in higher education, 2012; Mazais et al., 2012; Schindler
et al., 2015; Woodhouse, 1999.
Elements in the Output / Results
A standards-based approach; quality as
a set of minimum standards
European University Association, 2006.
Quality as transformation, development
and improvement, focusing on the
customer, meeting or exceeding
customer expectations of education
Bogue, 1998; European University Association, 2006; Findlow, 2008;
Harvey and Green, 1993; Harvey and Newton 2007; Lapina et al.
(2016); National quality management and organisational values in
higher education, 2012; Parasuraman et al., 1985 cited by Choon
et al., 2010; Sallis, 2002; Schindler et al., 2015; Watty, 2003.
Quality as value-added, quality addition
Bogue, 1998; Feigenbaum, 1951 cited by Choon et al., 2010;
Lentjušenkova et al., (2016) Rivža et al., 2015.
Quality as value for money, fitness of
Juran and Gryna, 1988 cited by Choon et al., 2010; National quality
management and organisational values in higher education, 2012.
Quality as excellence, based on high
Peters and Waterman, 1982 cited by Choon et al., 2010; Lapiņa et al.
(2015); Straujuma et al., 2017.
Quality as accountability, based on
professional or academic standards,
minimal or of a high level to attain
Schindler et al., 2015.
Quality as exceptionalism, quality as
Koslowski, 2006; Schindler et al., 2015.
The main criterion that determines stakeholders’ influential power is expected benefits. Depending on
the stakeholders, it can be career opportunities, remuneration, status, reputation, income, quality of
education, municipal teaching staff, welfare and competitiveness, stability, etc. Understanding the
correlation between the stakeholders’ impact on quality of higher education and expected benefits can
help find new solutions to efficient use of resources.
According to Figure 1, stakeholders that have impact on the quality of students’ initial knowledge can
be municipalities and their schools, parents, funding establishments. Schools may have also a business
partner’s role in ensuring students’ initial knowledge. If so, the faculty and staff of HEIs will have impact
on the Input stage.
Quality of higher education is the result of stakeholders’ concerted activities, whereas the stakeholders
do not have a common understanding of quality of higher education. Students and faculty members’
attention is usually drawn to the quality of the process, whereas employers’ attention – to the quality of the
result. Most stakeholders are involved in the middle stage of ensuring quality of education. On the one
hand, the education system prepares people (young professionals) who can apply these breakthroughs.
On the other hand, education prepares people of science (young scientists), who can create new
technologies and devices, improve work performance in different economic spheres (Lapiņa and Aramina
2011; Lapiņa et al., 2017; Nikitina and Lapiņa, 2017).
Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2 391
Figure 1 – Stakeholders of HEI (created by authors)
At the Output stage, the number of involved stakeholders can decrease because many of them no
longer have direct impact on quality of education, but retain the feedback influence in the future. It may be
called post-impact on quality of higher education.
At all the stages, the decisive role belongs to the quality of the academic staff and study programmes
(Cernajeva, 2011; Lapiņa et al., 2016; Støren and Aamodt, 2010). The teachers’ competence and quality
of teaching ensure high learning results. The quality of the academic staff’s work cannot be separated
from the quality of study programs. In the context of quality of higher education, the organisation of the
study process and delivery of study programmes are also important (Tudor, 2006).
Quality of study programmes and teachers’ work results together with organisation of the study
process affect students’ abilities to accept contemporary challenges, respond to opportunities and
limitations of the epoch. Later on, these abilities are crucial in one’s career and self-realization as well as
have long-term influence on national welfare.
The results of most of the researches show that the students are the most important stakeholders and
failure in fulfilling the students’ needs and expectations may dramatically affect the operation of HEIs
(Geryk, 2018; Mainardes et al., 2010; Shah and Nair, 2010). Students’ assessment and satisfaction have
the crucial role (Chapleo and Sims, 2017; Lapiņa et al., 2016; Marić, 2013; Thanassoulis et al., 2017).
Emerging students decide to enrol in higher education establishment if knowledge, skills and diploma
of the establishment can ensure better position in the labour market (Ādamsone 2010).
Dosberg (2011) points out that the students’ view of quality studies may differ from organizational or
national views, because students have a multi-faceted understanding of quality in higher education as
interested party, study members, external and internal assessors, advisors, direct and indirect investors,
I. Degtjarjova, I. Lapina, D. Freidenfelds. Student as Stakeholder: “Voice Of Customer” in Higher Education
392 Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2
Quality of higher education in the context of Stakeholder Theory can be viewed as an hourglass
(Fig. 2), where the government provides opportunities and sets limitations, HEIs are resource managers,
students are resource users, employers and society are beneficiaries. When the hourglass is turned over,
values created by education add to the state welfare. Students are placed in the narrowest point of the
process, which highlights the need for the most efficient use of stakeholders’ resources to create added
value and satisfaction among labour market players and for the state welfare. It means that both
stakeholders have an equal influence on quality of higher education: the state acts as a legislative power,
but students – as an internal power. Students, faculty and staff are the main stakeholders with a crucial
impact on quality of higher education (incl. staff qualification, teaching quality, quality of study content and
materials, equipment, planning, support, mobility etc.).
Figure 2 – Stakeholders of HEI (created by authors)
Considering the fact that academic staff quality and quality of study programmes play an essential role
in quality of higher education, it is possible to draw a conclusion that students, faculty and staff are the
main stakeholders with crucial impact on quality of higher education (incl. staff qualification, teaching
quality, quality of study content and materials, equipment, planning, support, mobility etc.).
Quality of higher education is influenced by nine strategic drivers: government and regulatory bodies
(regulations and regulators, legislation and policies, government funding, government); globalisation and
internationalisation; technology; social issues; collaboration; market; students; resources; quality
processes and productivity, accountability. Government funding is the most dominant (Rossouw, Goldman
2014). Alongside with the government funding, both students and their parents are looking for added value
for their money (Lapiņa et al. 2016). They are also direct investors in the system of education. Each
stakeholder expects some benefit from the invested resources. The more satisfied the stakeholder is with
the ratio of the invested resources and the gained benefits, the more efficient is the quality assurance
process and the use of resources of HEI.
Empirical study in Latvia: “voice of customer” or student as stakeholder. Methodology. The
empirical study is based on comparative analysis and Importance-Performance Analysis (IPA). The
research was carried out by sending an electronic questionnaire to 30 representatives who are active
members of the Council of Student Union of Latvia, 24 valid questionnaires were received, which
represents 80% of the sample. The survey was conducted in July 2018.
The responses from the members of the Council of Student Union of Latvia were processed by IPA.
This is a simple and useful technique that can help managers identify which attributes should be improved
to increase overall student satisfaction. The matrix of four groups of factors was obtained: “Concentrate
Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2 393
Here” (High Importance/ Low Performance), “Keep up the Good Work” (High Importance/ High
Performance), “Low Priority” (Low Importance/ Low Performance) and “Possible Overkill” (Low
Importance/ High Performance).
IPA was used for assessing students’ perceptions of the importance and performance of the factors
of quality of higher education. The methodology of the empirical research was articulated in three main
steps: (i) selection of variables to be included in IPA according to the survey research; (ii) definition and
execution of the survey; (iii) data-analysis and presentation of the results.
As for the selection of the determinants of students’ perception, the choice has been made based on
literature overview. The following categories and attributes were selected:
Study process (SP), Support and Resources (SR), External Factors and Results (EFR).
Students evaluated the importance and performance of each factor. Rating of Importance obtained
from a four-point Likert scale ranging from “No influence to quality of higher education” (1) to “Very
significant influence” (4). Rating of Performance obtained from a four-point Likert scale ranging from “Not
considering this factor” (1) to “Paying very great attention” (4).
Data-analysis and presentation of results. IPA was done both in each of the factor groups and for
all groups taken together.
IPA matrix in the group of “Study Process” is presented in Figure 3. Students highly evaluated the
correlation between the importance and performance in the factors SP2 Quality of educational content,
SP3 Teachers’ competence and SP6 Quality of study materials. Students consider the factors SP4 Strict
and objective student evaluation, SP10 Employers and professionals’ involvement in the study process
and SP14 Study process organization and administration are paid too much attention, although they have
a relatively small impact on quality of education. The factors with the highest risk are SP5 Clear
achievement assessment and feedback, SP7 Teaching methods, SP8 Student-centred study process,
because they have a great impact on quality of education, but insufficient attention is paid to them in real
life. Particularly large discrepancies are in the factor SP7 Teaching methods.
Figure 3 – Importance-Performance Analysis in the group of “Study Process”
(created by authors)
I. Degtjarjova, I. Lapina, D. Freidenfelds. Student as Stakeholder: “Voice Of Customer” in Higher Education
394 Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2
Importance-Performance Analysis in the group of “Support and Resources” shows that factors SR3
State subsidized studies according to quality criteria and SR7 Students’ active involvement in processes
to improve quality are estimated as having lowest performance (Fig. 4). Students believe that undue great
attention is being paid to the factors SR2 International mobility and SR11 Extracurricular activities (sports,
arts, etc.) –these factors do not have such a high impact on quality of education in comparison to the
attention paid to ensuring them. Students as insignificant in the context of quality of education consider
the factors SR1 Opportunity to study and work, SR4 Allowances, grants and other financial student
support, SR8 Students’ active involvement in student councils and SR9 Co-operation among secondary
schools and HEIs when working on educational content and requirements.
Figure 4 – Importance-Performance Analysis in the group of “Support and Resources” (created by
In the group of “External Factors and Results”, the factors EFR7 Funding of higher education and
EFR1 HEI reputation (Fig. 5) stand out. The most active members of the Council of Student Union of Latvia
believe that the question of reputation is being paid too much attention, while the question of financing
higher education is neglected, although it has a significant impact on quality of education.
IPA matrix of all the factors that influence quality of higher education is presented in Figure 6. The
largest number of risk factors is in the group of “Study Process”, whereas in the group of “External Factors
and Results” students expressly show the discrepancy between the funding to be awarded and its impact
on quality of higher education. When evaluating all the factors together, there are bigger changes: the
influence of the factor EFR7 increases, the factors EFR2 Higher education future prospects, EFR3
Graduates’ competitiveness on the labour market and EFR4 Strict accreditation requirements are no
longer so close to the risk sector and are considered as factors with a high level of importance and
Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2 395
Figure 5 – Importance-Performance Analysis in the group of “External Factors and Results”
(created by authors)
Figure 6 – Importance-Performance Analysis of the factors of quality of higher education (created
Conclusions and discussions. Literature overview shows that a single definition of quality of higher
education is not possible. Quality of higher education can be looked at from the perspective of a standard-
oriented or process-oriented approach. Different groups of stakeholders have different goals, needs and
priorities and use different criteria. Students, faculty and staff are the main stakeholders with crucial impact
on quality of higher education.
The factors that significantly influence quality of higher education are: Quality of educational content;
Teachers’ competence; Clear achievement assessment and feedback; Quality of study materials;
Teaching methods; Student-centred study process; State subsidized studies according to quality criteria;
396 Marketing and Management of Innovations, 2018, Issue 2
Friendly administrative staff; Co-operation between the management and students taking into account
students’ needs; Students’ active involvement in processes to improve quality; Purposeful partnerships
among all stakeholders (students, employers, HEIs, professional organizations, etc.); Equipment and
infrastructure relevant to the needs of the study process; Higher education future prospects; Graduates’
competitiveness on the labour market; Strict accreditation requirements; and Funding of higher education.
The risk factors that should be considered in depth in future are Clear achievement assessment and
feedback, Teaching methods, Student-centred learning, State subsidized studies according to quality
criteria and Funding of higher education.
It would also be helpful to find out why students consider extracurricular activities (sports, arts, etc.)
and HEI reputation as factors with a low impact on quality of education, but so much attention is paid to
Future studies require a more detailed analysis of the factors’ performance and conditions – why there
is a contradiction between their impact and performance and how students as stakeholders can help
achieve compliance between the importance and performance without overusing resources for factors
with less impact on quality of higher education and maximizing investment in factors with great impact on
quality. Future studies require the introduction of another dimension – the quality of the factors. It is
necessary to find out whether in cases when students consider the factor having a significant influence on
quality of education and that the educational institution pays great attention to it, they also consider the
quality of the factor as high.
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І. Лапіна, Ризький технічний університет (Рига, Латвія);
Д. Фрейденфельдс, Латвійський студентський союз (Рига, Латвія).
Студент як стейклохдер: "думка споживача" у розвитку менеджменту якості вищої освіти
Відповідно до принципів безперервного вдосконалення менеджменту якості освіти, всі вищі навчальні заклади
зосереджуються на необхідності вдосконалення організаційних процесів та досягнення якості, створюючи додаткові
переваги та задовольняючи потреби стейкхолдерів. Метою даного дослідження є аналіз поняття "якість у вищій освіті",
визначення зацікавлених сторін у системі вищої освіти та аналіз студентської думки про важливість та ефективність
факторів, які є визначальними детермінантами якості вищої освіти. У рамках даного дослідження використовувались
наступні методи: огляд літератури, аналіз та синтез, логічний та порівняльний аналіз, а також аналіз
важливості/ефективності (IPA). Результати дослідження засвідчили, що існують дві глобальні стратегії в менеджменті
якості вищої освіти: перша орієнтована на процес, друга аналізує конкретні показники (адміністративний устрій,
підтримку студентів, навчальну якість, успішність студентів, можливості працевлаштування тощо). Результати
проведеного дослідження показали, що базовими детермінантами, які формують концепцію менеджменту якості вищої
освіти, є цілі організації (університету) та особистий досвід. Серед широкого кола стейкхолдерів менеджменту якості
вищої освіти найважливішими є студенти, а серед кола елементів цієї системи – якість навчального персоналу,
організація навчального процесу та структура навчальних програм. Фактори, вплив яких на якість вищої освіти є
значним та які потребують більш глибокого формалізованого дослідження, – це методологія та методичний
інструментарій оцінювання досягнень студентів, організація зворотного зв'язку зі стейкхолдерами, методи навчання,
студентоорієнтоване навчання, фінансування вищої освіти. Важливим напрямком подальшого удосконалення
менеджменту якості вищої освіти є також пошук причин, за яких цілий ряд факторів, що формально мають низький
вплив на якість освіти, все ж таки визначаються самими студентами як такі, які суттєво вплинули на їх вибір вищого
навчального закладу (зокрема – наявна базу для позанавчальної діяльності (спорт, мистецтво тощо) та репутація
вищого навчального закладу).
Ключові слова: якість вищої освіти, зацікавлені сторони, теорія зацікавлених сторін, додана вартість.