Service quality and student satisfaction at the Open University of Cyprus
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In today’s new context of higher education, universities are facing issues of increased competition and privatisation, and are struggling to maintain an advantage in their target markets. Within this setting, students are increasingly being acknowledged as customers (Akinyele 2010; Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka 2006; Munawar khan, Ahmed & Nawaz 2011; Weerasingh, Lalitha & Fernando 2017), and thus as being at the core of the process of quality monitoring and assessment. Achievement of student satisfaction and loyalty are now at the centre of the strategy of universities, which are increasingly working towards deepening their understanding of what their customers define as ‘good service’ and ensuring provision of high quality educational services to them. Universities offering online education are no exception, as they, too, have to become increasingly competitive in order to survive in today’s rapidly evolving online HE market. This study focuses on the non-instructional dimension of online higher education and uses the Open University of Cyprus (OUC) as a case study. Four Units of the core administrative services of the OUC are examined in this study, with the aim of measuring the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of OUC alumni, based on the quality of service they received from these administrative Units. In particular, the study sought to identify which parts of these Units left alumni satisfied or unsatisfied, and ultimately provide recommendations for improvement. Quantitative research methods were employed to help to answer the research questions. Data was collected from a sample of 168 alumni of the OUC. The results showed a high overall level of satisfaction of alumni with the administrative services, which should, however, be interpreted with caution, based on the limitations of the sample of the study. Different levels of satisfaction arose when looking at specific services of the four Units. In particular, dissatisfaction was prevalent in alumni’s responses regarding the delay in the processes followed for degree recognition, the library services and the training they received as students on how to use its resources, as well as connectivity-related issues regarding the eLearning platform (eClass). Dissatisfaction was also noted in the data regarding receipt of on-time and accurate responses from administrative staff. Recommendations focused on the same services, with the addition of better circulation of studies-related information.