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Running head: LITERATURE REVIEW
This study aimed at analyzing the factors that influence student satisfaction in higher
education. Student satisfaction has become one of the emerging topics of study for the past
decade. Due to the ongoing competition of enrollment, retention and other various factors among
institutions of higher education, student satisfaction has become an extremely vital part of those
components. Student satisfaction in higher education can be defined as the ability for an
institution to satisfy the expectations of students through academic success, curriculum, faculty
and staff, and service (Mark, 2013). To effectively explore these issues, the literature gathered
was based on the relevance to the following questions:
1. Which factors coincide with student satisfaction in higher education?
2. How does the quality of student services affect student satisfaction in higher
3. Should students in higher education be viewed as customers?
A search through the use of online academic databases was conducted in order to gather
the literature that addressed these questions. The studies conducted may be different in terms of
demographics and/or geographical regions, however, the end results are far similar within each
study. Nevertheless, this review focuses on the scholarly literature that was gathered pertaining
to student satisfaction in higher education.
Which Factors Coincide with Student Satisfaction in Higher Education?
Student satisfaction is a key component in determining the success of an institution. In
order to assess the overall performance of an institution, it is important to evaluate the overall
level of student satisfaction (Santini, Ladeira, Sampaio, & da Silva Costa, 2017). However, there
are numerous factors that contribute to the overall satisfaction of students in higher education.
According to the federal government, tuition and fees have risen overtime by as much as 32%
(Douglas, Douglas, McClelland, & Davies, 2015). Ideally, with an increase of tuition and fees,
students are in belief that quality and efficiency of service will also increase. Douglas et al.
(2015) conclude that the critical areas of student satisfaction are derived from the quality factors
of an institution such as responsiveness, communication, friendliness and service.
Quality of education is one of the factors that influences a student’s level of satisfaction.
According to Douglas et al. (2015), quality of education can be measured by the ease of finding
way around campus, the willingness of faculty and staff to provide assistance when needed, the
availability of faculty and staff, social inclusion, value for money, and academic success. As a
result of the demands and expectations of students, institutions are having to address the ever
changing issues of student satisfaction (Naz, Tabassum, & Liaqat, 2018). Naz et al. (2018) states
that student satisfaction can be categorized into expectation, experience, perception, and
evaluation of an institution. Student satisfaction at a university is primarily impacted by
administrative staff, faculty, support services, and campus life (Naz et al., 2018).
According to the research done by Naz et al. (2018), students will be less satisfied with
the factors that they have high expectations for such as campus life. It is important to understand
that the factors that impact student satisfaction are primarily the same across the literature, but
the level of importance that each factor carries will vary by discipline, gender, and level of
expectation (Naz et al., 2018). According to the integrated model used by Santini, Ladeira,
Sampaio, and da Silva Costa (2017), the results back up the idea presented by Naz et al. (2018),
that student satisfaction is impacted by the overall quality of education which leads students to
become more involved and display loyalty within their respective institution. In addition, this
notion also impacts a student’s willingness to recommend their institution to others.
It is intuitive to believe that student satisfaction is measured on the level of success. The
goal of a student is to obtain an education, however, achieving this goal does not necessarily
mean that a given student is satisfied with their academic experience. There are numerous factors
that do not directly impact what occurs in the classroom that must be taken into consideration
when analyzing a student’s level of satisfaction. Some of those factors include: academic
advising, cafeteria services, financial aid services, university information before enrolling,
student employment, campus media, etc. (Uka, 2014). Students who achieve their academic
goals are more likely to be satisfied with their institution, program, and experience (Wilkins,
Butt, Kratochvil, & Balakrishnan, 2016). However, the same concept discussed by Wilkins et al.
(2016), can apply to those students who do not achieve their academic goals. Therefore, as
mentioned by Wilkins et al. (2016), student satisfaction is also interlinked with student
commitment and achievement.
A level of commitment speaks for both employees and students of an institution.
Employees who can identify themselves and find comfort in their work environment are more
likely to be engaged and loyal to their workplace along with performing more effectively
(Wilkins et al., 2016). This concept applies to students in higher education as well. Students who
graduate from institutions that have a positive reputation, are more likely to obtain employment
compared to those students from institutions that have a less favorable reputation (Wilkins et al.,
2016). As mentioned by the authors, the more favorable reputation an institution achieves, the
higher the expectations are from students. The image of an institution and student satisfaction are
directly linked to student loyalty (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017). In addition, the perceived value,
quality of resources, and expectations all have a direct effect on student satisfaction (Shahsavar
& Sudzina, 2017). As mentioned by Shahsavar & Sudzina (2017), dedicating the necessary
resources to improve upon the factors that most significantly impact student satisfaction enables
institutions to attract more students while maintaining a high level of satisfaction and loyalty.
However as in institution, it is important to understand the goal and mission in order to be
successful. As an institution that has a low level of expectations, this will correlate to attracting
far fewer students. Meanwhile, having a high level of expectations may have students feeling
disappointed (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017). As the study by Shahsavar & Sudzina (2017)
indicates, student satisfaction has a positive impact on student motivation, student retention,
recruitment, and fundraising. As indicated in most business practices, attracting a new customer
is more costly than retaining a current customer. Therefore, it is vital to an institution to be able
to emphasize on the educational needs and expectations of students in order to increase student
loyalty (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017).
As indicated by Shahsavar & Sudzina (2017), an institution should evaluate its strengths
and weaknesses in order to better access its quality of service and redefine its structure, if
necessary, in order to provide the best possible academic experience for its students. As stated by
Shahsavar & Sudzina (2017), students are motivated by the ability to expand their knowledge in
their desired area of study. Therefore, providing a quality education and the feeling of belonging
are key determinants of student satisfaction (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017). It is important for an
institution to understand that the perceived image of a given institution influences the formation
of student expectations, satisfaction, and loyalty (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017).
According to Shahsavar & Sudzina (2017), quality of lecturers, quality of software,
academic support, advising, and management of student programs, are all strong indicators that
influence a students ability to be successful and improve their level of satisfaction. In order to
better serve its students, institutions are forming partnerships with its students in order to receive
feedback on the curriculum design, input on policy formulation, and ideas on how to improve the
efficiency with its services (Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017). By involving students with these
aspects, it consequently increases student loyalty which leads to a higher retention rate
(Shahsavar & Sudzina, 2017).
As indicated in the study by Phoocharoensil (2018), the difficulty of student retention is a
problem many universities are facing, which leads to temporary, if not permanent, closures of
study programs and reduced funding. Student retention is directly impacted by the overall
student satisfaction in association with student motivation and student loyalty (Phoocharoensil,
2018). Phoocharoensil (2018) defines student satisfaction as the favorability of a student’s
evaluation based on their academic experience associated with education, which can be
measured by an overall feeling or judgment of a particular service. Student satisfaction is
affected by both personal factors and institutional factors (Phoocharoensil, 2018). Personal
factors that influence a student’s level of satisfaction include: age, gender, employment, learning
styles, grade point average, etc. (Phoocharoensil, 2018). Meanwhile, institutional factors that
have an impact on the overall level of student satisfaction include: quality of instruction, quality
of student services, timeliness, clarity, class size, image, etc. (Phoocharoensil, 2018).
As indicated in previous studies throughout the literature, there is a high level of student
satisfaction among institutions with their academic programs and support services, while there is
a lower level of satisfaction with academic advising and career counseling (Phoocharoensil,
2018). Both the quality of the program and the credentials of the administration are of
importance to students when assessing student satisfaction (Phoocharoensil, 2018). As indicated
by previous studies throughout the literature, student satisfaction has a major influence on
student loyalty with the ability to heavily influence students to recommend the
program/institution to others (Phoocharoensil, 2018).
Due to the emphasis on student satisfaction in higher education, the competition among
universities has increased (Parahoo, Harvey, & Tamim, 2013). With student satisfaction being a
key determinant in evaluating the success of an institution, universities are finding ways to
improve on the factors that impact student satisfaction (Parahoo et al., 2013). Many governments
are more inclined to fund higher education institutions that produce results, such as higher
enrollment and graduation rates (Parahoo et al., 2013). In addition, research on student
satisfaction has emphatically focused on service quality attributes, such as academic
staff/teaching, curriculum, advising support, preparation for future, social integration, preenrollment factors, etc. (Parahoo et al., 2013).
As mentioned throughout the literature, Raza Ali Tunio, Najam ul Hasan Abbasi, &
Mansoor Mumtaz Soomro (2017), reiterate the importance of teaching quality, administrative
support, career counseling, and financial support on student satisfaction. According to the study
done by Raza Ali Tunio et al. (2017), students are not overly concerned with the quality of
teaching and administrative support as opposed to the satisfaction levels with financial support
and career counseling services. Students are largely inclined to find satisfaction from their
respective institution from the beginning of their academic careers, starting with the enrollment
process and timely distribution of bursaries (Raza Ali Tunio et al., 2017).
As students are expected to pay for their education, it is intuitive for students, as
stakeholders, to expect speedy service and quality education (Raza Ali Tunio et al., 2017).
Student satisfaction is determined by the attitude or perception a student may have on a
particular aspect of service (Raza Ali Tunio et al., 2017). In addition, a student’s level of
satisfaction is inclined to change over time throughout their academic careers (Raza Ali Tunio et
al., 2017). This change is partly due to ever changing experiences and expectations (Raza Ali
Tunio et al., 2017). As indicated by Raza Ali Tunio et al. (2017), knowledgeable employees
have the ability to provide students with solutions to their problems which in turn helps reduce
time costs and delays in assessing their issues. In addition, having the necessary resources for
students such as a highly equipped library, classrooms, study centers, etc. are all physical
attributes that help contribute to student satisfaction (Raza Ali Tunio et al., 2017). In order for
an institution to gain a clear understanding of student satisfaction, it is important to incorporate
student feedback into the overall evaluation of its mission (Raza Ali Tunio et al., 2017).
Despite the factors that influence student satisfaction in higher education, it is important
for students to understand that their level of commitment ultimately dictates their success in
achieving their academic goals.
How Does the Quality of Student Services Affect Student Satisfaction in Higher Education?
The quality of student services is a major contributing factor to student satisfaction since
students are stakeholders in their respective institution (Phoocharoensil, 2018). In order to better
assess the quality of service, it is important to take into consideration the judgment of the
students (Phoocharoensil, 2018). The quality of student services is measured by the access,
perception, and university reputation (Phoocharoensil, 2018). As indicated by Phoocharoensil
(2018), many students will evaluate the quality of service by their experiences with faculty, staff,
support system, and the ability to succeed at their given program of study.
Studies in the literature have revealed that the quality of student services has a major
impact on student persistence (Arifin, 2018). As a result, student persistence in online education
programs is lower than that of face-to-face programs (Arifin, 2018). As mentioned by Arifin
(2018), the quality of student services are evaluated by effectiveness, which impacts student
satisfaction. Many of the factors that impact student services include: academic support,
counseling sessions, lack of information regarding course material, etc. (Arifin, 2018). In the
literature presented by Arifin (2018), the quality of student services are separated into three
categorical aspects: cognitive, affective, and systemic. Cognitive support addresses learning
support services that impact the resources and materials for students (Arifin, 2018). Affective
support addresses the ability to provide a supporting environment for students (Arifin, 2018).
Systematic support provides a friendly, efficient, and effective administrative process for
students to utilize (Arifin, 2018).
Student satisfaction can be primarily measured by factors that directly affect a student’s
willingness to achieve their academic goals (Wilkins et al., 2016). However, the quality of
student services provided has an impact in a student’s academic experience (Braun &
Zolfagharian, 2016). Braun and Zolfagharian (2016) believe that academic advising is among
one of the student services that provides the least level of student satisfaction in higher
education. Academic advising is not only a service that impacts a student’s academic experience,
it also is associated with on-time graduation (Wilkins et al., 2016). As stated by Braun and
Zolfagharian (2016), 70% of Americans enroll in a four year college, but only 53% of those
student graduate. While there are various factors that contribute to this statistic, academic
advising falls in line with student satisfaction and academic outcomes. Braun and Zolfagharian
(2016) associate student satisfaction with the favorability of a student’s evaluation of their
academic experience. Students prefer participation in their educational experiences and the
ability to have input on their class schedule (Wilkins et al., 2016). Meanwhile, further studies
should be conducted in order to better satisfy students with academic advising, since students
seem less satisfied with student services than their academic programs.
The quality of student services is typically evaluated by the tangibility, reliability,
responsiveness, assurance, and empathy (Chandra, Ng, Chandra, & Priyono2, 2018; Yong-Sik
Hwang & Yung Kyun Choi, 2019). Not only does the quality of student services impact student
satisfaction, it also influences students loyalty to their respective institution (Chandra et al.,
2018). As mentioned by Chandra et al. (2018), good service quality results in long term benefits
not only for the student, but the institution as well. They also believe that students prefer to not
only receive a high quality education, but also better service quality. The more satisfied students
are with the quality of student services, the more loyal students remain to their institution
(Chandra et al., 2018). In addition, student loyalty also reflects on the willingness for students to
recommend their institution to others and possibly continuing towards a higher degree. With that
being said, student satisfaction, student loyalty, and service quality are all interlinked with one
another (Chandra et al., 2018). As a result, student satisfaction is considered to be a measuring
indicator for quality of academic experience (Parahoo, Santally, Rajabalee, & Harvey, 2016).
As mentioned, quality of service is evaluated on several factors. The flexibility, ease of
access, and convenience are all factors that students will seek in services provided (Parahoo et
al., 2016). As mentioned by Parahoo et al. (2016), the quality of student services does not only
apply to students on campus, but as well as those enrolled in online courses. Despite the factors
that dictate the quality of student services, the importance that each factor carries will vary based
on whether the student is physically in attendance or through distance learning. The literature by
Parahoo et al. (2016) emphasizes that online students require more attention as less face to face
interaction takes place. Therefore, it is intuitive to believe that online students will require and
evaluate the quality of student services based on flexibility, ease of access, and convenience
(Parahoo et al., 2016).
Quality of student services are evaluated under the same initial factors, but will have
other influencing factors depending on the service provided. For example, advising is evaluated
on the ability of an advisor to guide a student through their course schedule ensuring on-time
graduation. Meanwhile instruction/curriculum is evaluated on content, timeliness of feedback,
student-teacher communication, etc. (Parahoo et al., 2016). In comparison, the literature by
Chandra et al. (2018) and Parahoo et al. (2016) proves that quality of service is a major
influencer to the reputation of an institution.
In addition, instruction and lecturer commitment are two of the biggest influences in
quality of student services that impact student satisfaction in higher education (Xiao & Wilkins,
2015). As mentioned in the literature by Parahoo et al. (2016), students will evaluate the quality
of instruction and lecturer commitment on the basis of student-teacher interaction, commitment,
context of instruction, timeliness of feedback, empathy, etc. The quality of student services has a
major impact on the satisfaction level of students in higher education, which influence the
success of the respective institution (Xiao & Wilkins, 2015). As a result, institutions are able
build a positive reputation and essentially acquire higher levels of funding due in part to its high
ranking from achieving success (Xiao & Wilkins, 2015). The literature by Xiao and Wilkins
(2015) not only suggests that the quality of student services affects student satisfaction, but also
impacts a student’s academic success. Similarly, literature from Yong-Sik Hwang and Yung
Kyun Choi (2019) also suggests that student service quality affects both student satisfaction and
the perceived institutional image.
As mentioned, the quality of service has a direct impact on student satisfaction, which
leads to a positive image of the institution. In addition, this increases the likelihood of retaining
currents students and recruiting new students. As institutions continue to provide quality student
services, these institutions can have an indirect impact on students maintaining positive
behavioral intentions (Yong-Sik Hwang & Yung Kyun Choi, 2019). Behavioral intentions from a
student’s perspective include: staying in a program, referring others to the institution, continuing
higher education, etc. (Yong-Sik Hwang & Yung Kyun Choi, 2019). In addition, by providing
students with a quality experience, students are more likely to engage in alumni activities postgraduation. This in turn will help the institutional image and influence competitive advantage. As
previously mentioned by Chandra et al. (2018), Yong-Sik Hwang and Yung Kyun Choi (2019)
also agree that the quality of student services are evaluated on the basis of reliability,
responsiveness, tangibles, empathy, and assurance. Overall, the institutional image is largely
influenced by the quality of student services, which impacts a student’s decision for college
admission (Yong-Sik Hwang & Yung Kyun Choi, 2019).
Overall, student satisfaction is largely impacted by the quality of student services
provided. However, the quality of student services not only has a direct impact on students
themselves, but also the institution as well. As institutions aim to gain a competitive edge,
maintaining a positive institutional image is key, which can be sustained by maintaining a high
level of quality for student services, which leads to a high level of student satisfaction.
Should students in higher education be viewed as customers?
Despite the agreement in the literature among the factors that impact student
satisfaction, viewing and treating students as customers is still a widely debated issue (Yong-Sik
Hwang & Yung Kyun Choi, 2019). How students view themselves plays a large part in their
demands for a given institution. According to Richard Budd (2017), students do not expect
higher education to be a challenge, but rather a comfortable experience that requires little effort.
However, the debate on students not being treated as customers falls largely in part with the idea
that students are not given an education and must be actively involved in order to achieve
academic success (Budd, 2017). In addition, the benefits received from obtaining a degree are
not immediate and can only be assessed over time as opposed to purchasing a product that brings
immediate satisfaction after the goods are exchanged (Budd, 2017).
The notion of treating students as customers has led to students feeling entitled to certain
treatments, services, and benefits (Fullerton, 2013). Ideally, students expect a good education,
lecturer commitment, and quality in service for the price they pay for tuition (Fullerton, 2013).
However, as stated in the literature by Darren Fullerton (2013), some students have a different
approach to their role as a student. As a result, students demand items that go beyond their
educational needs. For example, not paying fees for things that a student does not utilize, better
cable service in the housing units, free iPads, etc. (Fullerton, 2013). There is growing pressure
placed among institutions of higher education to adopt a customer oriented business model
approach (Parahoo et al., 2013). As stated by Parahoo et al. (2013), higher education has
increasingly become a service oriented business with students as its primary customers.
Treating students as customers is an approach that can weigh heavily on an institution by
providing students with a sense of entitlement and ability to control various aspects of their
academic career. Giving full control to students as a customer, enables students to believe that as
the customer he/she can choose to do as they wish since they are paying the price (Fullerton,
2013). As stated by Darren Fullerton (2013), students believe it should be their choice to attend
class, when to arrive, and when to leave since they are the paying customer. He also indicates
that students have high expectations from their instructors since they are paying their salary. This
idea reverts back to the notion of students evaluating service by content, timeliness of feedback,
empathy, student-teacher communication, etc. (Parahoo et al., 2016). In addition, treating
students as customers enables students to blame the institution for not being able to achieve their
academic goals in what they view as a flawed product (Mark, 2013).
The notion of a customer focus approach in higher education can potentially hinder the
learning process by ensuring students’ academic satisfaction, but blaming the institution for their
failures (Mark, 2013). It is intuitive to believe that students are only satisfied when they receive
what they pay for. Furthermore, students will evaluate their level of satisfaction with their
respective institution based on the price they pay (Mark, 2013).
The idea of an institution in promoting, recruiting, and maintaining satisfaction in order
to gain a competitive advantage, are all common indicators of a business approach. However, in
education the goals, functions, practices, and relationships are different from a business industry
(Wueste & Fishman, 2010). In a business approach a product or service is delivered for a profit.
Meanwhile, an institution delivers knowledge that is obtained by a student, but not guaranteed
(Wueste & Fishman, 2010). As stated by Wueste and Fishman (2010), students are viewed as
stakeholders, but appropriately as customers in the sense of beneficiaries with needs that should
be satisfied by their institution. As opposed to being treated as a customer that is able to purchase
any product or service of their choosing, students are not able to freely choose a given institution
without meeting the academic requirements for that particular institution (Wueste & Fishman,
2010). Treating a student as a customer implies that once an exchange is made (tuition is paid) a
student will receive an education. However, that is simply not the case, as students are provided
an opportunity to gain an education by actively participating in the process (Wueste & Fishman,
In contrast, some have argued with the connotation that students should be viewed/treated
as customers. The literature by Oluseye, Tairat, and Emmanuel (2014), argues that establishing a
customer relationship approach with students will help contribute to the success of the
institution. The authors state that customer satisfaction can lead to financial implications for the
institution from the revenue received from students during the duration of their educational
process, which leads to the notion of keeping the customer satisfied. They also believe it is
important to maintain the customer relationship approach in order to meet student expectations.
The mentioned literature also reiterates that customer satisfaction is the core philosophy
behind customer value. Several studies have argued that the customer relationship approach
possesses various elements that lead to satisfaction regardless of the market outreach. These
elements include: friendliness, knowledgeable employees, competitive pricing, service quality,
value and timely service (Oluseye et al., 2014). The mentioned literature suggests that an
effective customer relationship approach should be adopted in order to achieve a high level of
student satisfaction. In addition, keeping the customer relationship approach beyond a student’s
tenure at the institution will go a long ways in benefiting the institution’s success. (Oluseye et al.,
Eddie Mark (2013), also coincides with the notion that adopting a customer focused
approach promotes greater student input, increased accessibility of faculty, and curriculum that
meets the needs of students. However, treating students as customers allows for students to
become more active in their role and influencers of the services they receive. As a result, the
quality of service and level of satisfaction is linked directly to the effort and input of the students
(Mark, 2013). Empowering students and allowing them to contribute to the creation of future
courses is an indicator of implementing a customer focus approach (Mark, 2013). According to
Mark (2013), treating students as customers allows students to be more engaged and take a
greater sense of responsibility due to the fact that they are allowed to contribute to the education
and services they receive.
While student satisfaction is directly influenced by how students are viewed/treated,
satisfied students are crucial to the overall success of any given institution. In order to gain a
competitive advantage, students may be treated as customers in order to make their academic
experience more of a partnership, but institutions should steer away from the product oriented
concept (Mark, 2013).
To conclude, the literature review addresses the previously mentioned questions on
student satisfaction. Student satisfaction occurs when the quality of service meets their
expectations (Mark, 2013). Keeping students happy vs creating new knowledge is a challenge
that many institutions continue to face. In order to gain a competitive edge, institutions must
continue to find effective methods of providing quality service in order to meet students’
expectations. Maintaining a high level of student satisfaction will lead to an institutions success
through enrollment, retention, perception, additional funding, etc. As previously mentioned, the
indicators of student satisfaction are quite similar across the literature, but the approach in
customer service is what differs. Differentiating between stakeholders and customers remains to
be a challenge that is continuously being addressed in higher education. From the literature, one
can conclude that student satisfaction is the key indicator for evaluating an institution. The
objective of a student is to obtain an education while having a successful academic experience.
As a result, an institutions sole mission is to provide students with the opportunity to gain an
education, while maintaining a high level of quality service in order to meet the expectations of
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