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The impact of service quality on student retention: The mediating roles of student satisfaction and switching barriers in private universities






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Abstract

This research investigated the influence of university service quality, student satisfaction, and switching barriers on student retention within private higher educational institutions situated in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. A total of 410 valid questionnaires were collected for analysis, with hypothesis testing conducted using partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). The findings indicate a positive relationship between service quality within Vietnamese higher education institutions and student satisfaction. Additionally, student satisfaction has a positive association with student retention and switching barriers. Furthermore, switching barriers exhibit a positive relationship with student retention. Mediation analyses revealed that student satisfaction mediates the link between service quality and student retention, while switching barriers mediate the relationship between student satisfaction and retention. These findings contribute to the extant literature by elucidating the dynamics of service quality, student satisfaction, switching barriers, and student retention within higher educational contexts, particularly in the realm of private universities. Notably, this study establishes empirical correlations among service quality, student satisfaction, and student retention. Noteworthy outcomes include revealing the positive impact of service quality on switching barriers and identifying the robust moderating effect of switching barriers on the relationship between student satisfaction and student retention. From a managerial perspective, the constructs and insights derived from this study offer valuable guidance to the management teams of private universities, facilitating a deeper understanding of the pivotal role played by service quality in influencing student satisfaction and retention. Consequently, these insights can inform the strategic direction of private educational institutions in Vietnam.

INTRODUCTION

The significant growth of the national economy demands a greater investment in workforce expertise 1 . Economic growth creates more significant requirements for a highly educated workplace, particularly in larger metropolitan areas 2 . Private universities in Vietnam have received greater recognition and attention from the Vietnamese Ministry of Education due to their growing duties to offer a practical education curriculum and prospective workforce for the nation 3 .

Due to societal demand, numerous private universities have been quickly established to adapt and suit business purposes 4 . With the growth of private universities, they need help with multiple challenges due to the potential but competitive market . 5 , 6 The highly competitive surroundings are also compelling higher educational institutions; moreover, they must create their financial resources 7 . Universities are encountering massiveness and pressure to create value and benefit from their actions. Furthermore, it has been propelled to further commercial competitiveness by economic pressures imposed by the growth of worldwide education 8 . Hence, all private universities should explore unique approaches to attract and maintain learners 9 . Private universities’ contributions have become vital in ensuring the development and achievement of students in service 10 . Although many students enrol in colleges and universities, private university retention and graduation rates remain low 11 . The large number of students seeking university and the relatively inadequate retention rates highlighted the significance of providing outstanding and appropriate service quality to foster a sense of satisfactory academic fulfillment and boost retention 12 .

Student retention is a critical organisational issue with significant worldwide consequences. Students who drop out of university lack the chance to enhance their ability to think critically, have less income in their future jobs, and frequently leave university with loans to repay; universities with retention issues suffer a significant decrease in revenue, and for countries, higher education systems that may boost advancement in society and provide the were experts intellectual and skills required in the twenty-first century are undermined by high levels of dropout 13 . The vast range of places where retention studies have been conducted in recent years reflects the significance of retention in educational institutions 14 . Student retention has long been a source of concern for higher education institutions, attracting the attention of lecturers, policymakers, and scholars 15 .

According to the findings of many studies, service quality attributes are crucial at private educational institutions for building positive interactions with students and enhancing the proportion of student retention 16 , 17 , 18 . Nonetheless, most private universities in Vietnam should have the understanding and drive for satisfaction and retention. On the other hand, students’ satisfaction and learning success are critical in developing excellent employees and managers, providing substantial benefits to the growth of a nation’s economy and society 19 , 20 , 21 .

In the context of a competitive educational market, student retention is seen as a critical statistic for determining how well an educational institution satisfies the demands of its students 22 . Furthermore, private universities should put tremendous effort into sustaining student retention rates 23 . In addition, previous research has shown that service quality, satisfaction among students, and switching barriers all impact student retention 23 , 24 , 25 and that switching barriers affect student retention 25 . Service quality also influences students’ perceptions positively 24 , and student satisfaction substantially influences student retention 23 . However, many scholars have studied service quality and satisfaction, and various outcomes have been found depending on the specific point of time and the characteristics of the respondents. Therefore, studies in this field should be conducted in various contexts to expand the current knowledge on this phenomenon. Future studies should collect samples from diverse students 26 . Additionally, mediating factors, such as student satisfaction and switching barriers, contribute to the relationship between service quality and students’ behavioral intentions 27 , 28 .

Since the first appearance of many kinds of higher educational sectors, private universities in Vietnam have undergone substantial change and significantly contributed to the nation’s general growth 29 . Due to the increased choices for undergraduate study available to students today, the higher educational sector is becoming more competitive 30 . Service quality and student satisfaction have improved significantly due to the impacts of higher education quality accreditation 31 . This study investigated these elements in the context of Vietnamese private universities after the COVID-19 pandemic to examine whether there were any changes before or after the pandemic.

The first study objective is to examine the impact of the determinants of service quality (including reliability, responsiveness, empathy, assurance and tangibles) on student satisfaction and switching barriers. The second objective is to examine the impact of student satisfaction on student retention and switching barriers. Next, the study will examine the impact of switching barriers on student retention. The fourth purpose is to examine the mediating impact of student satisfaction on the relationship between the determinants of service quality and student retention, and the last objective is to examine the mediating impact of switching barrier factors on the relationship between student satisfaction and student retention. The study will be conducted in the context of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City.

This study has made significant contributions to service quality in universities, student satisfaction, switching barriers, and student retention, as well as to the understanding of the relationships among these elements. Policymakers at private educational institutions could benefit enormously from the outcomes by using them to enhance current approaches and principles, create strategies to attract potential new students and keep current ones by delivering them high-quality services. In the Vietnamese context, there are more than 242 higher educational institutions, while there are 176 public universities and 66 private universities 21 . This has created a competitive educational industry, and many large investors are pouring capital into this industry. Understanding which factors affect student retention helps universities ensure that their operations are successful by keeping the retention rate of students high and enhancing institutional quality.

This paper is structured as follows: The introduction presents the purposes and goals of the study. A theoretical review of the previous literature was conducted to create a basis for this study context, and a model of this study and hypotheses were established. The methodology section focused on the research design, data collection methods and measurement scales. The results section analyzes the collected data and reflects the study’s outcomes. The chapter also provides the literature research findings after examining the proposed hypotheses. The discussion section describes the outcomes of the study and provides some implications. Finally, the conclusion section describes the limitations and recommendations of the study.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Service quality. Service quality is determined by contrasting client expectations with perceptions of how well goods or services work 32 . The overall excellence of the services is assessed by evaluating the discrepancy between client expectations and views of service outcomes 33 . “Perceived service quality” describes how consumers evaluate a product’s or service’s overall value by contrasting what they expect from it with what they receive 34 . In higher education, the discrepancy between a student’s expectations and their views of delivery is called service quality 35 . The learner’s perspective is critical for evaluating the quality of service in higher education 36 , 37 . Students, the government, and professional organisations have a unique sense of service quality according to their respective needs 38 . Student reviews of service quality provided beneficial data for a university’s progress 39 . Service quality also improves the image of a university 40 . Therefore, assessing student responses regarding service quality is crucial 41 . Five dimensions can be applied to evaluate service quality in higher educational institutions: tangibles, responsiveness, reliability, empathy and assurance 42 .

Tangibles are considered appropriate physical facilities, equipment and devices and sufficient rooms for studying and researching. Responsiveness is how easily and quickly students may contact the individuals they need, such as lecturers and staff. Reliability in service quality may be understood by developing specific objectives, standards, policies, and regulations that are implemented equitably and firmly to enforce compliance with the course’s expected results 43 . The ability to instil confidence and belief in students through the services offered is an assurance element 42 . The degree to which the scores of the students were rated and how courteously they dealt with and solved the students’ concerns contributed to the knowledge of the Assurance factor 44 .

The previous three decades have seen a true evolution of the service quality paradigm, especially in the context of higher education. Providing excellent service quality is one of an organization’s most essential requirements since it is not only a competitive advantage and corporate offering but also an essential survival strategy and driver of corporate profitability 45 , 46 , 47 . Service quality in the higher education sector is vital to an institution’s success 48 . As a result, providing quality service has become a crucial priority for most higher education institutions to differentiate themselves from similar competitors 49 .

Student satisfaction. Student satisfaction refers to an intellectual perspective and sense of emotion from a student’s general assessment of the educational service they received 50 . Students’ satisfaction with the university is understood as their intellectual or emotional reaction to a specific or consistent set of services the institution provides 51 . Satisfaction comprises aspects concerning students’ perceptions and experiences at university 52 . Student satisfaction is a psychological response to a service experience and the situation of mind of a person who has received a result that meets his or her requirements and desires 53 , 54 .

The significance of student satisfaction in higher educational institutions has been proven recently 55 . When current students are satisfied with their universities, they are more likely to be introduced to others, and in contrast, the universities’ reputations will be destroyed by unsatisfied students 56 .

Switching barriers. Switching barriers include anything that causes it to be more complicated or costly for clients to move providers, such as implementing switching fees 57 . The breakdown of personal connections with suppliers of services is a barrier to switching 58 . In higher education, switching barriers are defined as any obstacles students encounter to transfer from their current university, including switching costs, attraction to alternatives, and emotional obstacles 59 . Investigating switching barriers can effectively prevent customers’ switching intentions or increase customers’ retention, which is essential for any organization 60 .

Student retention. The retention of customers is the continuity of a customer’s commercial connection to a business 61 . In the context of the educational sector, student retention can be defined as completing the academic curriculum 62 . The retention of students can also be defined as the percentage of enrolling students who leave or continue their studies at an institution 63 . Student retention is the ongoing enrollment process for two or more quarters 64 . With the rise of foreign universities in Vietnam and the increasing popularity of studying abroad, the withdrawal of students has expanded. In other words, the retention rate of students has decreased 65 , 66 .

Service quality positively impacts student satisfaction in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. Several studies have shown that service quality directly influences customer satisfaction 67 . The most significant indicator of consumer satisfaction is service quality 68 , 69 . Service quality significantly impacts customer satisfaction 70 . Students would not switch to their current university if they were satisfied with the quality service of their university 71 . Student satisfaction and curriculum image improved as a result of their service quality evaluations 72 . The impacts of university quality of service on satisfaction among students imply that the institution's service, product, and atmosphere improve satisfaction 73 .

Student satisfaction positively impacts student retention in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. Customer satisfaction is the organization’s most popular and essential tool for assessing customer perception 74 . Customers who are satisfied with a service have positive behavior and intentions to use that service repeatedly 75 , 76 . Excellent customer satisfaction might increase customer retention 77 . Customer satisfaction is critical for customer retention 78 . The significance of service quality variables on the retention of customers 79 , 80 .

Higher education students are more likely to stay there and achieve their educational pursuits when their universities fulfill their requirements 81 . The association between satisfaction and retention may be highest when the student perceives the college or university to give what they require to accomplish their educational objectives and expectations 82 . Various studies have demonstrated that student satisfaction impacts students’ decision to stay and finish their educational program 83 , 84 , 85 . Student satisfaction accounts for 32.6% of future participation differences 86 .

Student satisfaction positively impacts switching barriers in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. The crucial role of satisfaction in maintaining consumer repurchasing of products and services in their study is determining the factors that sustain the customer retention rate of customers 87 . The connection between obstacles to switching and satisfaction was examined 88 . In the banking sector, consumer satisfaction has a positive impact on preventing customer switching behavior 89 .

Switching barriers are defined as any limits students encounter in transferring from their existing university, including objective situational factors such as switching costs, attraction to alternatives, and psychological barriers 26 . Satisfied students will have significant switching barriers in the higher education sector. Higher education institutions will provide substantial switching barriers for satisfied students. Nevertheless, despite the minimal switching hurdles, unsatisfied students can decide to remain at their university 7 . Customer satisfaction impacts perceived switching costs 90 .

Switching barriers positively impact student retention in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. Many studies have investigated the association between switching barriers and customer retention 91 , 92 , 93 . Switching barriers have a strong positive impact on CR 94 . When students pay a higher tuition fee or take extra classes, they may call other universities to obtain information, which requires additional work and time. In the end, students may go through a period of confusion (psychological costs) and may accept the courses offered by their current institution 95 .

High switching barriers indicate that consumers stick with suppliers 96 , 97 , 98 . Empirical research has shown that switching costs explain customers’ preferences for staying with an existing provider 99 . The researcher also discovered that both primary and secondary switching barriers might have an impact on the retention of customers. Consequently, an organization can retain customers, even if they are unhappy, but it is possible on one condition if switching barriers are significant 100 . Switching costs can significantly contribute to customer retention since customers give them more weight when making decisions 101 .

A relationship exists between service quality and student retention through student satisfaction. Customer retention and long-term connections are positively impacted by service quality 102 . Considering the importance of mediation, customer satisfaction strongly mediates the link between service quality and customer retention 103 . A positive student perception of service quality increases satisfaction with a private university. Consequently, satisfied students will continue attending the institution and spread information about the university 26 .

There is a relationship between student satisfaction and student retention through switching barriers. Switching obstacles are more influenced by how consumers perceive competing alternatives than their availability on the market 91 . Students need to be more competent to switch universities because switching constraints and switching barriers considerably moderate the association between customer satisfaction and retention 104 . Switching barriers limit students from changing universities. The more switching barriers there are, the more behavioral retentions there are in their current higher educational institution.

Two elements impact customer retention: customer satisfaction and switching barriers 105 , 106 . Customer switching behaviors are narrowed by high customer satisfaction and switching barriers 107 . High switching costs impact customer loyalty, and customer retention is one of the components of customer loyalty; therefore, it can be concluded that switching costs impact customer retention 101 .

Service quality positively impacts switching barriers in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. When the buying process—associated with responsiveness—is longer than the customer’s expectation, he or she is more likely to move to another supplier 108 . Previous research in the Western context has indicated that poor service quality is one of the causes of switching behaviors 109 . Service failures may lead customers to switch to another supplier 110 . High service quality results in customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to consumers staying with the present providers 111 .

Figure 1 . The proposed research model

METHODOLOGY

The research procedure is divided into two sections. The factors were described first by studying the literature and then by applying them to the research. The theoretical framework was then constructed using these literature reviews. The variables’ connections were examined, and theories were proposed. Following the construction of the framework, the following step was to carefully gather the items for each variable before developing the preliminary questionnaire. The reviewers examined the questionnaire to ensure the content’s legitimacy. A group of students then conducted the pilot research to check the questionnaire’s validity and reliability before it was utilized for official data collection. The questionnaire was accurate and reliable enough to complete the survey. With the study’s objectives, a mass survey was conducted. This survey was conducted online, and participants were encouraged to participate. The data were then entered and analyzed using SPSS, AMOS and SmartPLS. The number of samples, approximately 200 to 300, illustrates the approximate and reliable results 112 .

A pretest was essential, and questions were amended before the final questionnaire was released 113 . The pilot test aimed to assess the reliability and accuracy of the proportional measurements. The questionnaire was distributed to 30 students and experts who could guarantee its accuracy and reliability by providing feedback and suggestions on the questionnaire structure, coherent logic, relevant situations, and understanding capacity. The study included a sample of 450 respondents from five famous private universities in Ho Chi Minh City, including Van Lang University, Hong Bang University, Hoa Sen University, Hutech University, and UEF University. The eligible answers were then gathered, while the invalid answers were discarded due to absent and duplicate data and unusually irresponsible responses during the analysis. The sampling quota was a selective approach for filtering appropriate applicants for the sample. A five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) was used to measure all the items.

The questionnaire was divided into two sections. The first included variables: study year, age, gender, university name, family income and hometown. The second section was concerned with the construction evaluation of all essential variables.

With a self-administered, structured survey, the author contacted students at the private universities surrounding Ho Chi Minh City and explained the study’s objectives. Using Google Forms, students were given access to an online survey that followed a standardized, self-administered method. The respondents might begin answering the questions as soon as they receive the survey link. As a result, 410 out of 450 people provided accurate results that could be used in the data analysis.

Online survey data collection requires less time and resources. Respondents might also respond at their convenience rather than at inconvenient moments while answering an online survey. However, the data collection rate of the online approach was lower than that of the offline method since individuals could find the online technique more convenient.

Table 1 shows the measurement scale used in the study. The first construct was service quality, with 46 114 , 115 . The second construct was student satisfaction, which was assessed with 7 items 116 . The third construct was switching barriers. This construct was evaluated with 17 items in 4 categories 117 , 118 , 119 . The fifth construct was student retention, with 4 items 120 .

Table 1 Measurement scales

RESULTS

Evaluation of the measurement model

Table 2 shows the demographic profile, which was accurate enough to represent the population of the study. Males and females accounted for 42.7% and 51.2%, respectively. The population ranged from 18 years old to more than 21 years old and were studying at university. The students came mainly from the five universities mentioned above.

Table 2 Demographic descriptions

Except for RS4, all the factors are shown in Table 3 had factor loadings greater than 0.7. These constructs had factor loadings ranging from 0.678 to 0.892, which is an acceptable range 121 . As a result, the factors indicated acceptable variance for factors explaining factors. In general, the item’s measurement was deemed reliable.

Table 3 Factor loadings of the items

Table 4 reported that the CR of all the constructs was greater than 0.7. All the constructs reflected the high internal consistency and dependability of the study model 122 . This study also determined that a Cronbach’s alpha greater than 0.6 was acceptable. In detail, the Cronbach’s alpha values in this study were all above 0.7 123 . The average extracted variance (AVE), used to test construct convergent validity, should be more than 0.5 124 . The mean value was computed by taking the square of each item loading on a build. In this study, the AVE values ranged from 0.532 to 0.683, which indicated convergent validity. This finding also implied that a construct might account for at least 50% of the variance in its elements. Overall, all the constructs were greater than 0.5, supporting convergent validity.

Table 4 Findings of internal consistency

The heterotrait–monotrait ratio is a tool for testing the discriminant validity of a construct. The heterotrait-monotrait method is the means of heterotrait-heteromethod correlations divided by the average of monotrait-heteromethod correlations 125 . The average mean of the heterotrait-hetero method must be used to distinguish between the two constructs. The Heterotrait-Monotrait Ratio should be less than one 125 , whereas other researchers contend that 0.9 is the appropriate cutoff point for assessing discriminant validity 126 .

The Heterotrait–Monotrait ratio for discriminant validity is shown in Table 5 . The discriminant validity between the two reflective constructs was less than 0.9, which was acceptable for obtaining discriminant validity. As a result, the Heterotrait-Monotrait discriminant validity was sufficient.

Table 5 Heterotrait–Monotrait Ratio

Evaluation of the structural model

Table 6 Structural model fit

R 2 is “the overall effect size measure for the structure model.” The R 2 value, also known as the coefficient of determination, was used to analyze how well independent constructions explain the dependent construct. R 2 values greater than 0.1 reflect the model’s quality of fit and forecast model correctness 125 . The greater the R 2 score is, the better the level of prediction accuracy. As shown in Table 6 , the R 2 of student retention was 0.068%, which was lower than 0.1; student satisfaction, 0.420%; and switching barriers, 0.375%, above 0.1. This also meant that the model was able to illustrate 6.8%, 42% and 77.5% of the differences in student retention, student satisfaction, and switching barriers, respectively.

The Q 2 value, in addition to the R 2 value, is used to evaluate model fit. A Q 2 value greater than 0 showed that the model predicts this specific construct when given an absolute reflective dependent variable. A Q 2 score greater than zero indicated that the dependent variables were predictive. The blindfolding technique was utilized with an omission distance of five to obtain the Q 2 value 127 . Table 6 reveals that the Q square values of student retention (0.059), student satisfaction (0.393), and switching barriers (0.285) were greater than zero, suggesting that the dependent variables (student retention, student satisfaction, and switching barriers) were predictive. As a result, the importance of the model goodness of fit was determined.

Table 7 Path coefficients and hypothesis testing ( direct effect)

Hypothesis 1 (H1) was tested, and the results showed that reliability positively affected student satisfaction (β=0.158, p=0.006). Hypothesis 2 (H2) was tested, and the results showed that responsiveness positively affected student satisfaction (β=0.206, p=0.001). Hypothesis 3 (H3) was tested, and the results showed that empathy positively affected student satisfaction (β=0.162, p=0.010). Hypothesis 4 (H4) was tested, and the results showed that sssurance positively affected student satisfaction (β=0.171, p=0.007). Hypothesis 5 (H5) was tested, and the results showed that tangibles positively affected student satisfaction (β=0.240, p=0.000). Hypothesis 6 (H6) examines whether student satisfaction significantly affects student retention. The results demonstrated that student satisfaction significantly affects student retention (β=0.179, p=0.001). Hypothesis 7 (H7) examines whether student satisfaction affects switching barriers. The results demonstrated that student satisfaction affects switching barriers (β=-0.328, p=0.000). Hypothesis 8 (H8) examines whether switching barriers affect student retention. The results demonstrated that switching barriers affect student retention (β=0.162, p=0.001).

Table 8 Path coefficients and hypothesis testing ( indirect effect)

Hypothesis 9 (H9) evaluates whether student satisfaction mediates the relationship between reliability and retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=0.028, p=0.019). Hypothesis 10 (H10) evaluates whether student satisfaction mediates the relationship between responsiveness and retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=0.037, p=0.065). Hypothesis 11 (H11) evaluates whether student satisfaction mediates the relationship between empathy and student retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=0.029, p=0.039). Hypothesis 12 (H12) evaluates whether student satisfaction mediates the relationship between assurance and retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=0.031, p=0.058). Hypothesis 13 (H13) evaluates whether student satisfaction mediates the relationship between tangibles and student retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=0.043, p=0.008). Hypothesis 14 (H14) evaluates whether switching barriers mediate the relationship between student satisfaction and student retention. The indirect effect was positive (β=-0.053, p=0.007). Hypothesis 15 (H15) was tested, and the results showed that reliability positively affected switching barriers (β=0.280, p=0.000). Hypothesis 16 (H16) was tested, and the results showed that responsiveness positively affected switching barriers (β=0.163, p=0.002). Hypothesis 17 (H17) was tested, and the results showed that empathy positively affected switching barriers (β=0.111, p=0.044). Hypothesis 18 (H18) was tested, and the results showed that Assurance positively affected switching barriers (β=0.274, p=0.000). Hypothesis 19 (H19) was tested, and the results showed that tangibles positively affected switching barriers (β=0. 0.271, p=0.000).

DISCUSSION

Service quality positively impacts student satisfaction in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. The results indicate the essential service quality for satisfying university students. This outcome is consistent with previous research, in which service quality was the most significant predictor of customer satisfaction 128 , 129 . A significant link between student-perceived service quality and satisfaction in higher education was found 130 . Consequently, service quality is the most significant predictor of student satisfaction in educational institutions. There are recommendations that educational institutions prioritize learning system quality and service quality attributes such as the design of courses, student-instructor connections, assistance and administrative support. Each trait has a variable impact on student satisfaction 131 .

Student satisfaction positively impacts student retention in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. The outcome of hypothesis testing revealed a significant effect of student satisfaction on student retention. This finding is in line with previous studies conducted by other researchers 132 , 133 , 134 , 135 . Their studies demonstrated that consumer satisfaction benefited the organization in developing a successful and long-term relationship with its customers. Student satisfaction resulted in excellent word of mouth, and the educational institution could retain students for the following academic years. Moreover, in an educational institution, student satisfaction significantly impacts student retention and loyalty 136 , 137 , 138 , 139 . As a result, satisfied students are more likely to express excellent behavioral retention.

Student satisfaction positively impacts switching barriers in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. According to the findings, student satisfaction considerably impacts university switching barriers. The study suggested that while a student’s reported satisfaction is significant, the possibility of a student switching to another university is minimal. Customer satisfaction has a favorable impact on the level of switching intention 140 .

Service quality positively impacts switching barriers in Vietnamese higher educational institutions . This study revealed the positive effect of service quality on switching barriers. This result is in line with previous studies 141 , 142 . When the institutions offer high-quality service to their students, they stay with their university and do not switch to another one. Service quality in private universities plays a vital role in shaping switching barriers.

Switching barriers positively impact student retention in Vietnamese higher educational institutions. This study additionally indicates a unique outcome: switching barriers are strongly linked to student retention in higher education. This finding is in line with a previous study 143 . Additionally, in the banking sector, switching barriers are a crucial predictor of loyalty 144 .

There is a relationship between student satisfaction and student retention through switching barriers. As the data in this study revealed, the switching barrier fully mediated the positive relationship between student satisfaction and student retention. This outcome aligns with previous research 145 , 146 showing that customers are unlikely to switch to other service providers due to high switching barriers.

A relationship exists between service quality and student retention through student satisfaction. According to the statistical analysis, student satisfaction completely mediates the relationship between service quality and student retention at private universities. Excellent service provided by higher educational institutions can meet student expectations and hence lead to student satisfaction 143 , 147 , 148 . When students are satisfied with their university, their loyalty may increase. As a result, they decide to continue their studies at their current university.

Theoretical implications

The outcomes of this study have added to our understanding of service quality, student satisfaction, switching barriers, and student retention in higher educational contexts, especially in private universities. Other studies have focused on thesedimensions 51 , 72 , 130 . The empirical correlations between service quality, student satisfaction, and student retention were also established in this study.

This study has made a significant contribution to the development of empirical research on the issue. This study added to the evidence that student satisfaction completely mediated the connection between student service quality and student retention, which is consistent with previous research 103 , 143 , 102 , 149 , 150 .

One of the significant outcomes was that service quality had a positive impact on switching barriers, which was the same as the findings of previous studies 108 , 109 , 110 , 111 . Higher service quality created more substantial barriers, discouraging students from switching to other universities. The quality of service could significantly influence the decisions of students to remain with their current provider rather than explore alternatives.

Furthermore, the findings of this study revealed that switching barriers had a solid moderating influence on the correlation between student satisfaction and student retention. When evaluating the indications of switching barriers inside a university, students were assumed to be cautious and deliberate. Other studies also reported similar results 101 , 105 , 106 , 107 .

Managerial implications

In terms of management, the constructs and elements gathered in this study helped create a better understanding of the role of service quality for the management team of a private university, which has had a significant impact on student satisfaction and student retention and will guide the future strategy of private educational institutions in Vietnam.

The basic principle was that university leaders must implement higher service and education quality approaches to boost education quality, student satisfaction, and retention rate. First, service quality is critical in determining student satisfaction. As a result, satisfied students will impact their intentions to stay with the university, and they will spread positive words about their institution. This research can assist a private university’s board of council in building an excellent academic structure and serve as a reference point for university ranking standards regarding quality service features. The assurance of high-quality service by private institutions would boost Vietnam’s attempts to become an ideal international education destination. Therefore, transformation activities in higher education services are required to increase the performance standards and level of competition among private universities. This might be done by thoroughly grasping undergraduate students’ needs and expectations. In conclusion, this research provides significant evidence that service quality is a major predictor of satisfaction and retention, implying that service quality is an essential concept in the context of private educational institutions in Vietnam.

CONCLUSIONS

Limitations and future recommendations

There were various limitations to this study. First, the data were gathered solely from private universities in Ho Chi Minh City. As a result, outcomes might not be created on a nationwide scale. To provide adequate findings, similar research might be performed in private universities across the country. Second, the data were solely gathered from private universities.

Consequently, the findings of this study were helpful exclusively for private universities. A similar study might be undertaken for public universities, providing different results than for private universities. Furthermore, it was suggested that samples be collected from a diverse range of students, including postgraduate students and international students at private universities, as they may have various expectations and requirements compared to undergraduate students. Future studies may also fill in the knowledge gaps about how online education trends and digital learning platforms impact student satisfaction and retention at private universities, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on higher education.

Online survey data collection requires less time and resources. Respondents might also respond at their convenience rather than at inconvenient moments while answering an online survey. However, the data collection rate of the online approach was lower than that of the offline method since individuals could find the online technique more convenient. Future research can combine two ways of collecting data for more accurate results.

This study demonstrated a substantial causal relationship between service quality, student satisfaction, switching barriers, and student retention in Ho Chi Minh, a private Vietnamese university. The findings demonstrated that service quality impacted student satisfaction, switching barriers and retention. The board of the university council must focus more on service quality and student satisfaction. These approaches are required to attract potential new students and retain existing students to boost a university’s profit and sustainability. A comprehensive understanding of undergraduate students’ needs and wants may improve the effectiveness level and competitive advantage of private universities in Vietnam.

Measuring the impact of service quality on student retention and identifying the mediating roles of student satisfaction and switching barriers in private universities were important study goals. The analysis revealed strong associations between switching barriers, student retention, service quality, and student satisfaction. Universities should take on a more significant role by satisfying students with high-quality services. Additionally, it has determined which aspects of the service should be highlighted in marketing campaigns intended to draw in and keep current students.

Authors' Contributions

xxx

COMPETING INTERESTS

The authors hereby state that the paper’s publication does not involve any conflicts of interest.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to extend my thank you very much to the Editor-In-Chief and reviewers for supporting us.

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Issue: Vol 27 No 1 (2024)
Page No.: 3315-3332
Published: Mar 31, 2024
Section: Section: ECONOMICS, LAW AND MANAGEMENT
DOI: https://doi.org/10.32508/stdj.v27i1.4240

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Oanh, T., & Tho, A. (2024). The impact of service quality on student retention: The mediating roles of student satisfaction and switching barriers in private universities. Science and Technology Development Journal, 27(1), 3315-3332. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.32508/stdj.v27i1.4240

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