PURPOSE: To investigate the choice factors students consider when selecting a higher education institution, with a focus on the differences between gender and language groups.
PROBLEM INVESTIGATED: The educational landscape has seen several changes, such as stronger competition between institutions for both student enrolments and government funding. These market challenges have led to an interest in students’ institution selection processes as it has implications for the way higher education institutions (HEIs) manage their marketing and recruitment strategies. The research objective of this study was to identify the most important choice factors of prospective South African students. It also aimed to determine if any gender and language differences exist with regard to students’ institution selection processes.
METHODOLOGY: A convenience sample of 1 241 respondents was drawn, representing six South African universities. A self-administrated questionnaire was used to collect the data. Questions from the ASQ (Admitted Student Questionnaire) and CIRP (The Cooperative Institutional Research Programme) were used and adapted to the South African context after pilot testing. Hypotheses were analysed using the multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) test with Wilks’ lambda as the test statistic.
FINDINGS/IMPLICATIONS: Irrespective of gender or language, the most important choice factor for respondents was the quality of teaching at HEIs. The findings showed that males and females differ according to the selection of certain choice factors which suggest that HEIs can consider recruitment strategies for each gender group. Significant differences between the language groups were found for 17 of the 23 choice factors, signalling that different language groups make decisions based on different choice factors. African language-speaking students have, amongst other, indicated that the multiculturalism of the institution is a very important choice factor for them.
CONCLUSION: The findings provide HEIs with an indication of the importance of choice factors considered by students in selecting a HEI. This will enable HEIs to use their limited funds more efficiently to attract the right calibre student (recruitment policies), to create a unique position, to segment the student market more appropriately and to gain a competitive advantage.