Applying the marketing concept in higher education

A stakeholder approach

Authored by: Mei-Na Liao

The Routledge Companion to Nonprofit Marketing

Print publication date:  November  2007
Online publication date:  November  2007

Print ISBN: 9780415417273
eBook ISBN: 9780203936023
Adobe ISBN: 9781134114917


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During the past four decades, there has been a constant move from an elite system to a mass system in the higher-education (HE) sector in developed countries, in particular, the UK and the USA (Bargh et al. 1996; Bekhadnia 2001; Dearing 1997; Thomas 2001). Compounded by a decrease in government funding (per student), this movement has created an increasingly competitive environment for higher-education institutions (HEIs). Consequently, these institutions are now placing far greater emphasis on marketing. Marketing activities have become important within universities, and many authors now write widely about the application of marketing techniques in the HE sector. However, the application of the marketing concept per se in HE received little attention, and it remains an area of challenge (Brookes 2003; Maringe 2005; Sargeant 2004). The extant literature tends to adopt the market orientation construct, which was developed within large multinational organizations, as the operationalization of the marketing concept for all sectors. However, many authors in nonprofit marketing have questioned the appropriateness of this approach, in terms of its terminology and its components (Frerris 2002; Liao et al. 2001; Maringe 2005; Sargeant et al. 2002; Siu and Wilson 1998). Furthermore, as it is argued in this chapter, if universities strictly apply market orientation, it could compromise their societal role and charitable status. The subsequent parts of this chapter provide an overview of the extant studies on marketing in HE, review literature on the development of the operationalization of the marketing concept, critically evaluate the adoption of market orientation in HEIs and identify the main issues faced, propose a societal orientation model and discuss the implications for the implementation of the societal orientation construct. The model was developed from my earlier works with Adrian Sargeant (Liao et al. 2001; Sargeant et al. 2002) on nonprofit organizations. Because most of the HEIs are essentially nonprofit organisations, the societal orientation model would fit the HEIs better than other for-profit models, such as customer orientation and market orientation models.

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