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A Methodology to Understand Student Choice of Higher Education Institutions: The Case of the United Kingdom

McManus, R and Haddock-Fraser, JE and Rands, P (2017) A Methodology to Understand Student Choice of Higher Education Institutions: The Case of the United Kingdom. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39 (4). pp. 390-405. ISSN 1360-080X

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Abstract

The need to understand how prospective students decide which higher education institution to attend is becoming of paramount importance as the policy context for higher education moves towards market-based systems in many countries. This paper provides a novel methodology by which student preferences between institutions can be assessed, using the United Kingdom as a case study. It applies both revealed preference and discrete choice modelling techniques to estimate the priority attributes and potential trade-offs of students choosing between different UK universities. Whereas the former methodology has the advantage of being based on actual decisions, the latter provides an experimental setting for more nuanced findings to be elicited; the combination of approaches allows for a rich and detailed set of results. This methodology can also be used to ask detailed strategic questions of higher education institutions and further applied to other international markets.

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