Investigating Key Factors Influencing International Students’ Choice of Private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Malaysia


Teah, Woon Sim Chloe (2019) Investigating Key Factors Influencing International Students’ Choice of Private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Malaysia. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


The Malaysia government in its 2015-2025 education blueprint articulated the aim to develop the country into an education hub through its 659 higher education institutions (HEIs) of which 509 are privately owned. The higher education sector in Malaysia faces intense competition pressure at both international level (competing with other countries) and domestic level (HEI providers competing with each other in Malaysia) in attracting and recruiting international students. It is therefore vital for higher education providers particularly the private HEIs to identify and understand the key factors influencing international students’ decision-making in choosing HEIs in order to strategically position themselves based on these factors for long-term viability and achieving the aim of the 2015-2025 education blueprint. This study uses structural equation modelling (SEM) to develop a model that integrates both consumer decision-making model and the push-pull theory for identifying and investigating the key factors influencing international students’ decision-making in choosing private HEIs in Malaysia. This thesis adopts a holistic approach by looking into international students’ total overseas study experience that comprises of entire study, living and social lives within the academic and host country context; their satisfaction in regard to their study decisions and future word of mouth behaviour in consumer referrals. The model in this study was empirically tested with a cluster random sample of 435 full-time international undergraduate and postgraduate students who are enrolled in a private HEI in Malaysia. A total of 29 private HEIs participated in the study and this research constitutes a pioneer attempt to include all four types of private HEIs (private university, foreign university branch campus, university college and private college). The study discovers that international students’ decision to study abroad typically derives internally from their perception that overseas education is better than the home country qualifications. When it comes to deciding where to study, a positive study destination reputation portraying a foreigner-friendly image are key attractions for international students when evaluating a host destination. Other host country supporting traits include political stability and safety for a conducive study environment, social and cultural diversity, as well as easy visa processing and a flexible migration system. The study also discovers that respondents placed greater emphasis on the choice of institution than the choice of country destination when it comes to making decisions pertaining to overseas education. The SEM results offer important insights into the differentiating institutional characteristics that attracted international students to study in Malaysia. The most dominant influencing institutional factor is related to campus facilities and a good support system. The subsequent deciding factors pertain to a quality education in terms of a distinctive institution image, which is often represented by its reputation and international recognition and the range of academic programs and courses. Other supporting institution traits include strategic location and ease of entry requirements. This study also finds a positive relationship between international students’ study decision and their satisfaction towards their HEI, as well as satisfaction towards their social experience in Malaysia. In addition, overall satisfaction of the respondents has been found to have a significant effect on their willingness to recommend Malaysia and their private HEIs to others via word of mouth - a potentially free marketing tool that higher education providers could use to recruit international students. This thesis identifies that future research on operationalising the construct of overall satisfaction is warranted for advancing the understanding of the importance of overall satisfaction in international students’ choice of private HEIs. Lastly, group comparison is undertaken in this study to determine whether there have been differences in the perception of key influencing factors and overall satisfaction based on gender and different HEI types. In the terms of gender differences, this thesis reports no apparent gender discrepancy in international students’ perception across a wider range of host country and institutional considerations. Likewise, the study finds no difference in overall satisfaction between male and female students towards their private HEIs in Malaysia. In regard to comparison of international students from different HEI types, the study finds there is no difference in their perception of key factor influencing their choice of private HEIs in Malaysia regardless whether they are studying at private university, foreign university branch campus, university college or private college. However, the study finds a significant difference in the overall satisfaction of international students from private university, foreign university branch campus, university college and private college. International students from university colleges appeared to have the least overall satisfaction with their choice of their HEI in Malaysia.

Additional Information

Doctor of Business Administration

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Business
Keywords Malaysia; higher education; university; college; international students; structural equation modelling; decision-making; choice
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