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Aalto University School of Business Master's Theses are now in the Aaltodoc publication archive (Aalto University institutional repository)
School of Business | Department of Management and International Business | International Business | 2012
Thesis number: 13106
University websites as facilitators of international student decision-making
Author: Aarinen, Anni
Title: University websites as facilitators of international student decision-making
Year: 2012  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management and International Business
Academic subject: International Business
Index terms: kansainväliset yhtiöt; international companies; kansainvälinen; international; yliopistot; universities; markkinointi; marketing; päätöksenteko; decision making; opiskelijat; students; internet; internet; viestintä; communication; tieto; knowledge
Pages: 154
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_13106.pdf pdf  size:2 MB (1462126)
Key terms: university websites; higher education institutions; international marketing; international students; student decision-making

ABSTRACT Selecting a university to study abroad is one of the most complex and expensive decisions that a student is likely to ever make. In order to make a well-informed decision, prospective students need access to information about issues that affect their purchase intention. University websites are one venue where this information can be offered. It is in a university’s interest to ensure that the student’s decision is based on realistic expectations, because these affect their satisfaction, which in turn affects their morale and the way they speak about the institution to others. A lot of research into student decision-making has been conducted, but the work has been patchy, focusing mostly on Anglo-American countries, usually taking a singlecountry or even a single-institution approach. This thesis focuses on the Nordic countries, which form a special market with a unique model of no or low tuition fees and well-developed support systems. This market has not been studied as a region in the context of student decision-making before. To determine the issues that are relevant to international student decision-making, a framework of 56 items influencing international student purchase decisions has been compiled based on the findings of previous studies on the subject. To see whether understanding of student decision-making has been applied to marketing communications practice, the framework was tested in an empirical study on the websites of altogether eight universities in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. These eight institutions all offer programmes in the field of technology and engineering, and they are each other’s competitors. The study included a qualitative content analysis of marketing communications materials targeted at prospective international Master’s degree students on university websites. The purpose was to find out whether the content was relevant in terms of student decision-making, informative in terms of quantity of information, and persuasive in terms of attempting to emphasize the institution’s strengths and stand out from its competitors. The results were quite positive: on average, the institutions had offered extensive information about the issues important to students and also emphasized their strengths to some extent. Still, some individual issues had been mostly ignored, e.g. the expected earnings after graduation. Surprisingly, the institutions had strongly emphasized issues related to the host country and city, even though in the literature these aspects have not yet been recognized as priorities. Interestingly, there were only two items where only one institution had emphasised the topic, suggesting that it is challenging to stand out from the competitors when most of the institutions emphasize the same issues. Key words: university websites, higher education institutions, international marketing, international students, student decision-making
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