Sustainability of Western branch campuses in the Gulf Region: Students' perspectives of service quality

Shahid N. Bhuian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Using the widely used SERVQUAL model of service quality, this study examines the discrepancies between students' expectations and perceptions regarding the service quality dimensions of tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy in the context of Western branch campuses in Qatar. A stream of higher education literature suggests that higher education has become an intensely competitive market where students look for evidences of service quality while making the uncertain and highly risky decision of choosing a university. Thus, universities, particularly that are faced with a chronic enrollment crisis can no longer ignore to listen to students and to facilitate students' participation in tracking and managing the service quality. Even though the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region has become a leading international education hub by establishing over 60 branch campuses of Western institutions, most of them are operating under capacity because of their inabilities to attract adequate number of students, which is becoming a rising threat for the sustainability of these branch campuses. Drawing from the customer value-based theory, it can be argued that by focusing on student-oriented service quality, branch campuses can create a better service value for students and, in turn can attract and retain students. Nonetheless, comprehensive empirical studies to assess all the salient dimensions of the service quality of branch campuses from students' perspectives are lacking. Unfortunately, regarding the issue of quality, branch campuses in the Gulf region are mostly focused on the traditional means of accreditation, course review, and students' feedback on course delivery. Analyzing a sample of over two hundred students representing branch campuses in Qatar, this study finds that students' perceptions of all salient dimensions of service quality are lower than their expectations. More specifically, branch campuses could not meet, let alone exceed, the service quality expectations of students in any of the significant dimension of the service quality-service processes, interpersonal contacts, and physical aspects. It appears that the mere transplantation of Western models of education in this culturally distinct host country is not enough to create a superior service value for students. As service providers, branch campuses in the Gulf region will be better off if they strive to align their service offerings as per students' expectation and values. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-323
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Branch campuses
  • Gulf region
  • Service quality
  • Transnational education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainability of Western branch campuses in the Gulf Region: Students' perspectives of service quality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this