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Other research product . 2021

Study Abroad Motivations, Satisfaction and Loyalty: the Impact of Service Quality, Acculturation and International Student Characteristics in Higher Education

Mucsi, Attila;
Open Access
Published: 13 Dec 2021
Country: Hungary
The number of international students enrolled globally have surpassed 4.5 million by 2015 (OECD, 2017) and went above 5.5 million in 2018 (UNESCO 2020). Since there is fierce competition between higher education institutions to attract international students (IIE, 2017), institutions must go beyond providing high academic quality (Borzooei & Asgari, 2014). The dissertation aims to explore and analyse the influence of international students’ motivation for studying abroad on their satisfaction and loyalty towards their host institution. The dissertation also examines the mediating role of acculturation, considering the host country culture, and mediating role of perceived service quality, considering the services provided by the host institution. In the qualitative phase of the research 40 in-depth interviews were conducted with international students between 2018 and 2020, hence the second sampling was already impacted by the pandemic and it was accounted for. Following that, in the quantitative phase, 426 valid responses were collected (via Tempus Public Foundation) from international students studying in Hungary in 2021. The data was analysed with SmartPLS 3 (Ringle et al, 2015) and the results are summarized below. Research question 1 - motivations, satisfaction, and loyalty: based on the PLS path modelling there is a weak, but a significant direct connection between self-determined motivations for studying abroad and satisfaction, and there is a strong and significant direct connection between satisfaction and loyalty. Research question 2 - the mediating role of acculturation: based on the PLS analysis the acculturation (sociocultural adaptation) has a weak partial mediating effect on the relationship between self-determined motivations for studying abroad and satisfaction. The mediation is only partial because the direct connections of the construct were also significant. At the same time, acculturation was a moderately strong partial mediating construct between self-determined motivations for studying abroad and perceived service quality. Based on these partial mediations the importance of the host country culture had been proven. Research question 3 – the impact of culture shock: the path modelling confirmed that there is a moderately strong negative connection between culture shock and acculturation, meaning that a higher level of culture shock resulted in lower level of acculturation (sociocultural adaptation). Research question 4 – the mediating role of perceived service quality: the PLS path modelling analysis showed that perceived service quality had a partial mediating role between self-determined motivations for studying abroad and satisfaction. This finding confirms the importance of the services provided by institutions, and also that perceived service quality can be improved through identifying and managing the motivations of international students. Research question 5 – the impact of demographics, personal characteristics, and personality traits: the PLS path modelling found that international students who prepared more for the differences in teaching style, were more likely to reach a higher level of acculturation. Students who kept in touch with their friends and family daily also reached a higher level of acculturation. In case international students had to make significant sacrifices (Vangelis & Hill, 2019) to be able to study abroad, they were less loyal to the host institution. The satisfaction of international students was negatively moderated by the age group of the students and it was positively moderated by the academic performance of the students confirming the results of Brokaw et al (2004). Control variables such as gender, financial situation, host country choice, prior cultural exposure, program level, host city, program length, program start (pre or during COVID-19), time spent abroad, and the major study area did not moderate the examined relationships. The dissertation provided a synthesis for the extant literature of study abroad motivations, culture shock, acculturation, service quality, satisfaction, and loyalty in the international higher education context. The most important theoretical contribution of the dissertation that it found significant connections between these constructs in a single theoretical framework, providing a holistic view on the study abroad program satisfaction and overall experience. From the practical perspective, institutions must keep in mind that loyal international students are their top supporters when recruiting new international students. Based on the results, HEIs could measure the study abroad motivations, experienced culture shock, acculturation and the service quality perceptions of their students to understand how they could support their intrinsic motivations and acculturation process. By doing so, students will experience a higher level of service quality and satisfaction, which will lead to a loyal group of international students who will be glad to spread positive WOM about the institution.


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