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Title: An exploration of relationship development and management in international business schools : MBA Students' perspectives
Author: Li, Helen Hai Yan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 9115
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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Given the increasing importance of international higher education (HE) markets from a business perspective (Chadee and Naidoo, 2009; Anonymous, 2011a, 2012a), this research responds to the review of Hemsley-Brown and Oplatka (2006) that highlighted a lack of holistic approaches and theoretical models to address the nature of the HE service; and built on scholarly work (Mazzarol and Hosie, 1996; Mazzarol, 1998; Naude and Ivy, 1999; Ivy and Naude, 2004; Ivy, 2008) relating to HE marketing strategies. The research moves from the traditional marketing approach adopted predominantly in the existing literature of HE marketing (i.e. Mazzarol et al., 2003; Hemsley-Brown and Oplatka, 2006) and instead adopts a relational approach. This offers an alternative way of investigating the HE service, and contributes towards a broader theoretical perspective on HE strategy and a deeper understanding of the complex nature of the HE service. The theoretical background of this research was based on both the Interaction Approach (Håkansson ed., 1982) and the Relationship Life-Cycle Model (Ford, 1980; Wilkinson and Young, 1994). In response to limited existing research on the students’ perspective in HE (Trowler, 2010), this study provides a means of exploring HE marketing from the perspective of a markets-as-networks tradition (Håkansson and Snehota, 1995; Ford et al., 2002). Due to the adoption of a social constructivist epistemological stance (Gergen, 1985; Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998), a case studies research approach (Yin, 2003, 2011) and semi-structured interviews (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994; Miles and Huberman, 1994) were utilised. Template analysis was chosen for data examination and interpretation (King, 1998, 2004), from a longitudinal contextual time-space of prospective students, current students and future alumni viewpoints (Halinen and Törnroos, 2005). The research findings suggest that the HE service is interactive and relational by nature, comprising six key relationships that are fundamentally important from the perspective of students being the focal-actor. These include relationships with alumni, other students, academic staff, administrative staff, multi-national companies (MNCs), and overseas exchange partner higher education institutions (HEIs). Despite the multiple roles of students, as clients (Mills et al., 1983; Hill, 1995), producers (Armstrong, 1995), products (Emery, et al., 2001; Modell, 2005) and customers (Kotler and Fox, 1985; Conway et al., 1994) of the HEIs, students are the users of these networks. They are also the beneficiaries of these key relationships, as they perceive and seek the added-value of the HE service, such as knowledge enrichment and employability enhancement. The synergy of these relationships and networks collectively contribute to the added-value of the HE service, enhance students’ overall positive experience and satisfaction with their institutions, and also have the potential to significantly impact on the HEIs’ competencies and business strategies. Practically, managing and influencing these relationships provide an opportunity for HE managers in resource allocation, strategic planning and policy-making, and the quality of service provision at the operational level.
Supervisor: Burton, Jamie; Murphy, John Sponsor: University of Manchester
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Relationship Interactions, Network Effects, HE Marketing