The impact of choice factors on international students’ loyalty mediated by satisfaction

  • Dina Maria AmaroEmail author
  • Alzira Maria Ascensão Marques
  • Helena Alves
Original Article


The presence of international students is a valuable input for Higher Education Institutions (HEI) at all levels. Thus, it is critical to understand not only how students make their decisions and what factors and sources of information provided by the HEI most influence them, but also to evaluate students’ satisfaction and loyalty with the choice made, in order to define the most suitable and competitive marketing strategies to attract and retain international students. Based on the information gathered through a questionnaire with a sample of 190 international students studying at a Portuguese HEI, a quantitative, cross-sectional and causal study was conducted using the estimation of a structural equation model calculated through PLS, in order to investigate the impact of choice factors and information sources on international students’ loyalty, mediated by satisfaction with the choice made. The findings indicate that the choice factors with the greatest impact on satisfaction of the international students were: the perception of the country, the environment and location of the HEI, and the sources of information provided by the HEI. It was also concluded that a positive global perception of the HEI influences the recommendation from significant others, and increases the satisfaction and loyalty of all the international students. Thus, HEI managers should account for these factors when making strategic marketing decisions to increase the number of international students.


Choice factors and information sources Satisfaction Loyalty International students PLS 



  1. Altbach, P. (2004). Globalisation and the university: Myths and realities in an unequal world. Tertiary Education and Management, 10(1), 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altbach, P., & Knight, J. (2007). The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3/4), 290–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alves, H. M. (2003). Uma abordagem de marketing à satisfação do aluno no ensino universitário público: índice, antecedentes e conseqüências. Tese de doutoramento em Gestão. Covilhã: Universidade da Beira Interior.Google Scholar
  4. Alves, H., & Raposo, M. (2007). Conceptual model of satisfaction in higher education. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 18(5), 571–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Amani, M., & Kim, M. M. (2017). Study Abroad Participation at Community Colleges: Students’ Decision and Influential Factors. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 42(10), 678–692Google Scholar
  6. Arambewela, R., Hall, J., & Zuhair, S. (2006). Postgraduate international students from Asia: Factors influencing satisfaction. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 15(2), 105–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Asare-Nuamah, P. (2017). International students’ satisfaction. Higher Education for the Future, 4(1), 44–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Athiyaman, A. (2000). Perceived service quality in the higher education sector: An empirical analysis. Proceedings of Australian & New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (ANZMAC 2000), (pp. 50–55). Gold Coast, Australia.Google Scholar
  9. Bagozzi, R. P. (1980). Causal models in marketing. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Baker, D., & Crompton, J. (2000). Quality, satisfaction and behavioural intention. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(3), 785–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bhati, A., & Anderson, R. (2012). Factors Influencing Indian Student’s Choice of Overseas Study Destination. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 1706–1713. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bodycott, P. (2009). Choosing a higher education study abroad destination - what mainland Chinese parents and students rate as important. Journal of Research in International Education, 8, 349–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Briggs, S. (2006). An exploratory study of the factors influencing undergraduate student choice: The case of higher education in Scotland. Studies in Higher Education, 31(6), 705–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Briggs, S., & Wilson, A. (2007). Which university? A study of the influence of cost and information factors on Scottish undergraduate choice. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 29(1), 57–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, R. M., & Mazzarol, T. W. (2009). The importance of institutional image to student satisfaction and loyalty within higher education. Higher Education, 59, 81–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cebolla-Boado, H., Hu, Y., & Soysal, Y. N. (2018). Why study abroad? Sorting of Chinese students across British universities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39(3), 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chen, L.-H. (2007). East-Asian Students' choice of Canadian graduate schools. International Journal of Educational Advancement, 7, 271–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chin, Wynne & Marcoulides, G. (1998). The partial least squares approach to structural equation modeling. Modern Methods for Business Research. 8.Google Scholar
  19. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, Vol. 22 (N.º 3), pp. 297–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cubillo, J. M., Sánchez, J., & Cervino, J. (2005). Modelling International students' intention of destination. Available at
  21. Cubillo, J. M., Sánchez, J., & Cervino, J. (2006). International students' decision-making process. International Journal of Educational Management, 20(2), 101–115.Google Scholar
  22. Cubillo-Pinilla, J. M., Zuñiga, J., & Soret, I. (2009). Factors influencing international students evaluations of higher education programs. Journal of American Academy of Business Cambridge, 15(1), 270–278.Google Scholar
  23. Das, S., & Kochaniewicz, A. (2015). International students´ decision making process and potential challenges in Poland. The first International Conference for PHD students and young researches in Economics, Management and Finance.Poland.Google Scholar
  24. De Wit, H., & Hunter, F. (2015). The future of internationalization of higher education in Europe. International Higher Education, 83, 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eder, J., Smith, W. W., & Pitts, R. E. (2010). Exploring factors influencing student study abroad destination choice. Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 10(3), 232–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Falk, R. F., & Miller, N. B. (1992). A primer for soft modeling. Akron, OH: University of Akron Press.Google Scholar
  27. Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 28, 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fortin, M.-F., Côté, J., & Filion, F. (2009). Fundamentos e etapas do processo de investigação. Loures: Lusodidacta.Google Scholar
  29. Guolla, M. (1999). Assessing the teaching quality to student satisfaction relationship: Applied customer satisfaction research in the classroom. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, 7(3), 87–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Haigh, M. (2008). Internationalization, planetary citizenship an higher education. A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 38(4), 427–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., Anderson, R. E., & Tatham, R. L. (2006). Multivariate data analysis (6ª ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Hair, J. F., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2011). PLS-SEM: Indeed a silver bullet. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 19(2), 139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Helgesen, Ø., & Nesset, E. (2007). Images, satisfaction and antecedents: Drivers of student loyalty? A case study of a Norwegian University College. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(1), 38–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hennig-Thurau, T., Langer, M. F., & Hansen, U. (2001). Modeling and managing student loyalty: An approach based on the concept of relationship quality. Journal of Service Research, 3(4), 331–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Henriques, P. L., Matos, P. V., Jerónimo, H. M., Mosquera, P., da Silva, F. P., & Bacalhau, J. (2018). University or Polytecnhic? A fuzzy-set approach of prospective students' choice and its implications for higher education institutions' managers. Journal of Business Research, 89, 435–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hill, F., & Hill, A. (2000). Investigação por questionário. Lisboa: Síbalo, Lda.Google Scholar
  37. Hudzik, J. K. (2011). Comprehensive internationalization: From concept to action. Washington, D. C: Nafsa - Association of International Educators.Google Scholar
  38. Kallio, R. E. (1995). Factors influencing the college choice decisions of graduate students. Research in Higher Education, 36(1), 109–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Keil, M., Wei, K.-K., Saarinen, T., Tuunainen, V., & Wassenaar, A. (2000). A cross-cultural study on escalation of commitment behavior in Software projects. Mis Quarterly, 24(2), 299–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kinzie, J., Palmer, M., Hayek, J. C., Hossler, D., Jacob, S. A., & Cummings, H. (2004). Fifty years of college choice: Social, political and institutional influences on the decision-making process. Indianapolis: Lumina Foundation for Education.Google Scholar
  41. Knight, J., & De Wit, H. (2018). Internationalization of higher education: Past and future. International Higher Education, 95, 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kotler, P., & Fox, K. F. (1994). Marketing Estratégico para as Instituições Educacionais. São Paulo: Atlas.Google Scholar
  43. Kumar, J., & Yang, C. L. (2014). Service quality and loyalty of international students studying in the field of hospitality and tourism. Malaysian Online Journal of Education Management, 2(3), 97–118.Google Scholar
  44. Kunanusorn, A., & Puttawong, D. (2015). The mediating effect os satisfation on student loyalty to higher education institution. European Scientific Journal /SPECIAL/ edition, 1(1857–7881), 449–463.Google Scholar
  45. Ladhari, R., Souiden, N., & Ladhari, I. (2011). Determinants of loyalty and recommendation: The role of perceived service quality, emotional satisfaction and image. Journal of Finantial Services Marketing, 16(2), 111–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lam, J. M., Ariffin, A. A., & Ahmad, A. H. (2011). Edutourism: exploring the push-pull factors in selecting university. International Journal of Business and Society, 12(1), 63–78.Google Scholar
  47. Le, T. D., Dobele, A. R., & Robinson, L. J. (2019). Information sought by prospective students from social media electronic word-of-mouth during the university choice process. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 41(1), 18–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Llewellyn-Smith, C., & McCabe, V. S. (2008). What is the attraction for exchange students: The host destination or the host university? Empirical evidence from a study of an Australian University. Internacional Journal of Tourism Research, 10, 593–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Malhotra, N. K. (2010). Marketing research: An applied orientation (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Marginson, S. (2004). National and global competition in higher education. Australian Educational Researcher, 31(2), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Maringe, F. (2006). University and course choice: Implications for positioning, recruitment and marketing. International Journal of Educational Management, 20(6), 466–479.Google Scholar
  52. Maringe, F., & Carter, S. (2007). International students' motivations for studying in UK HE: Insights into the choice and decision making of African students'. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(6), 459–475.Google Scholar
  53. Marques, A. (2014). Marketing Relacional: Como transformar a fidelização de clientes numa vantagem competitiva (2nd edi. ed.). Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.Google Scholar
  54. Marzo-Navarro, M., Pedraja-Iglesias, M., & Rivera-Torres, M. P. (2005). Measuring customer satisfaction in summer courses. Quality Assurance in Education, 13(1), 53–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mazzarol, T., & Soutar, G. N. (2002). Push-pull factors influencing international student destination choice. International Journal of Educational Management, 16(2), 82–90.Google Scholar
  56. Middlehurst, R. (2003). Quality assurance and borderless higher education: Finding pathways through the maze. London: The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.Google Scholar
  57. Ming, J. S. (2010). A model of higher education institutions choice in Malaysia - a conceptual approach. The Third International Conference on International Studies, (pp. 1-21). Malaysia.Google Scholar
  58. Ming, J. S. (2011). Institutional factors influencing students' college choice decision in Malaysia: A conceptual framework. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 1(3), 53–58.Google Scholar
  59. Moogan, Y., & Baron, S. (2003). An analysis of student characteristics within the student decision making process. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(3), 271–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Nicholls, S. (2018). Influences on international student choice of study destination: Evidence from the United States. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 597–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nora, A., & Cabrera, A. (1992). Measuring program outcomes: What impacts are important to assess and what impacts are possible to measure? Washington DC: Office of Policy and Planning, US Department of Education.Google Scholar
  62. OECD (2015). Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. (2015).
  63. Oliveira, D., & Soares, A. (2015). Choosing a university abroad: Motivations, information sources and decision factors, proceedings of the 14th International Marketing Trends Conference 2015. Proceedings of the 14th International Marketing Trends Conference. Google Scholar
  64. Paswan, A. K., & Ganesh, G. (2009). Higher education institutions: Satisfaction and loyalty among international students. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 19(1), 65–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Pestana, M. H., & Gageiro, J. N. (2008). Análise de dados para Ciências Sociais - A complementaridade do SPSS (5th ed.). Lisboa: Edições Sílabo.Google Scholar
  66. Petruzzellis, L., & Romanazzi, S. (2010). Educational value: How students choose university. International Journal of Educational Management, 24(2), 139–158.Google Scholar
  67. Podsakoff, P. M., Mackenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Price, I., Matzdorf, F., Smith, L., & Agahi, H. (2003). The impact of facilities on student choice of university. Facilities, 21(10), 212–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Queijo, E. d., Silva, R. V., & Laureano, R. (2013). Choosing a University in Portugal: A conceptual model. International Journal of Engineering and Industrial Management, 5, 175–186.Google Scholar
  70. Raposo, M., & Alves, H. (2007). A model of university choice: An exploratory approach. Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA Paper N.°. 5523). Google Scholar
  71. Reichheld, F. F. (2003). The one number you need to grow. Harvard Business Review, 81(12), 46–54.Google Scholar
  72. Shanka, T., Quintal, V., & Taylor, R. (2005). Factors influencing international students' choice of an education destination - a correspondence analysis. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 15(2), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Shook, C. L., Ketchen, D. J., Hult, G. T., & Kacmar, M. K. (2004). An assessement of the use os structural equation modeling in strategy management research. Strategy Managment Journal, 25(4), 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Simões, C., & Soares, A. M. (2010). Applying to higher education: Information sources and choice factors. Studies in Higher Education, 35(4), 371–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sirdesmukh, D., Singh, J., & Sabol, B. (2002). Consumer trust, value and loyalty in relational exchanges. Journal of Marketing, 66(1), 15–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Soutar, G. N., & Turner, J. P. (2002). Students' preferences for university: A conjoint analysis. International Journal of Educational Management, 16(1), 40–45.Google Scholar
  77. Van Mol, C., & Ekamper, P. (2016). Destination cities of European exchange students. Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography, 116(1), 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wiers-Jenssen, J., Stensaker, B., & Grogaard, J. B. (2002). Student satisfaction: Towards an empirical deconstruction of the concept. Quality in Higher Education, 8(2), 183–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wilkins, S., & Huisman, J. (2011). International student destination choice: the influence of home campus experience on the decision to consider branch campuses. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 21(1), 61–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wilkins, S., & Huisman, J. (2015). Factors affecting university image formation among prospective higher education students: The case of international branch campuses. Studies in Higher Education, 40(7), 1256–1272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wilkins, S., Shams, F., & Huisman, J. (2013). The decision-making and changing behavioural dynamics of potential higher education students: the impacts of increasing tuition fees in England. Educational Studies, 39(2), 125–141Google Scholar
  82. Wilkins, S., Balakrishnan, M. S., & Huisman, J. (2012a). Student satisfaction and student perceptions of quality at international branch campuses in the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34(5), 543–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wilkins, S., Balakrishnan, M., & Huisman, J. (2012b). Student choice in higher education: Motivations for choosing to study at an international branch campus. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16(5), 413–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Yang, Y., Volet, S., & Mansfield, C. (2017). Motivations and influences in Chinese international doctoral students’ decision for STEM study abroad. Educational Studies, 1–15.Google Scholar
  85. Yu, G. B., & Kim, J.-H. (2008). Testing the mediating effect of the quality of college life in the student satisfaction and student loyalty relationship. Applied Research Quality Life, 3(1), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politécnico de LeiriaLeiriaPortugal
  2. 2.ESTG, CARME, Politécnico de LeiriaLeiriaPortugal
  3. 3.Management and Business Department, NECEUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal

Personalised recommendations