Journal Search Engine
ISSN : 2288-4637(Print)
ISSN : 2288-4645(Online)
The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business Vol.6 No.1 pp.159-167
DOI : http://doi.org/10.13106/jafeb.2019.vol6.no1.159

# Factors Affecting Brand Values of Private Universities: A Case Study of Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH)

Quang Hung Le1
1 First Author and Corresponding Author. Vice Dean, Faculty of Business Administration, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH), Vietnam [Postal Address: 78 Vo Oanh, Ward 25, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, 70000, Vietnam] Tel: +84916798955 Email: lq.hung@hutech.edu.vn
December 22, 2018 January 3, 2019 January 8, 2019

## Abstract

The current higher education in Vietnam demonstrates the intense competition among local universities. Undoubtedly, the issue of enhancing the brand value to attract students is now placed at the top to Vietnamese universities. The research aims to identify the objective and subjective factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as mediated by students’ perceptions. This paper employs the mixed research methods and data were then analyzed by measuring Cronbach's Alpha coefficient for reliability, analyzing EFA, and using PATH model to test the experiment on the research model affecting HUTECH’s brand value. Probability sampling used is Stratified sampling and 500 students of 8 faculties of HUTECH surveyed by convenience sampling. Additionally, this paper also proposes some managerial implications on enhancing the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City. The results indicate that the new factor, namely geographic location is the most influential factor to enhance the brand value of private universities in general and HUTECH in particular. Brand still plays a determinant role in students' trust when choosing a university. Finally, some implications proposed to enhance the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City in the context of fierce competition in attracting students.

JEL Classification Code: I23, I25, M31.

## 1. Introduction

In recent years, Vietnam has been not only focusing on the development and expansion of public and private schools, or training schools under internationally associated programs, etc. but also offering many opportunities for high school students to get their wet feet in the world of college life and academics. Regarding the private education system, the issue of competition is vital since the university's brand is the first chosen priority for students and their family. Therefore, the selected research topic "The factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh city as mediated by students’ perceptions: A case study of Ho Chi Minh city University of Technology" will contribute to explore the factors and suggest implications on enhancing the brand value as well as the competitiveness of private universities in Ho Chi Minh city in general and HUTECH in particular.

The objectives of this research are to determine the factors affecting the value of HUTECH brand as mediated by students' perceptions and to develop the research model related to factors affecting HUTECH’s brand value. In the model, some new aspects will be explored and discussed as follows: (1) adding Geographic location factor to enhance the brand value of private universities in general and HUTECH in particular, (2) the more satisfied students are with university’s services, the higher their trust in the university brand is, and (3) using PATH model to test the experiment of model through the intermediate variable ‘Student Confidence’.

## 2. Literature Review

### 2.1. Customer Satisfaction

According to Oliver (1980), from the marketing perspective, customer satisfaction is a positive state when customers receive a sense of values ​​through their consumption experiences. Customers are satisfied with the service when their needs are performed by the value created during the service encounters. Zeithaml and Bitner (2000) then defined customer satisfaction as the customer's evaluation of a product or service that satisfies their needs and expectations. Kotler (2000) also considered it as a person’s feelings of pleasure or disappointment resulting from comparing a product’s perceived performance (or outcome) in relation to his or her expectations. Hansemark and ​​Albinsson (2004) agreed that customer satisfaction is an overall attitude of the customer towards a service provider or an emotional response to the difference between what customers anticipate and what they receive for satisfying some needs, goals or desires.

In general, customer satisfaction is the base of customer awareness about a product or service that forms subjective judgments or comments. This is a kind of psychological feeling after the needs of customers are satisfied. Therefore, customer satisfaction is formed on the basis of accumulated experience when shopping and using products or services. During the post-purchase phase, customers will have a comparison between reality and expectation so as to evaluate their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

### 2.2. Student Satisfaction with Universities

Chapman (1981) argued that university’s fixed factors such as tuition, geographic location, expenses support policy or environment of dormitory alter students’ college choice decisions. Meanwhile, Atay and Yildirim (2010) pointed out that among many factors affecting students’ satisfaction, the most influential one is job opportunity after graduation. Malik, Danish, and Usman (2010) showed that although students are satisfied with tangible elements, level of engagement, confidence and empathy, and even other tangible elements such as facilities, laboratory, computer room, and school canteen are unable to fulfil students’ expectations. Tran (2008) studied five factors (facilities, enthusiasm of staff and lecturers, faculty team, ability of fulfilling commitments and student care) which affected students’ satisfaction in Thai Nguyen University. Results showed that these five factors affected students’ satisfaction with 87.1% of the relevance between model and data. Differentiation of some hypotheses indicated that the level of students’ satisfaction is not altered by academic year, major and learning performance but varied by gender.

Duong (2010) explored the factors affecting students’ satisfaction in University of Economics Da Nang such as classrooms, canteen, school website, learning conditions, computer room, office of Training and Student affairs. Research results showed that 8 of 10 factors affecting students’ satisfaction include classroom, library, canteen, computer room, school website, learning conditions, faculty, office of academic affairs, and office of student affairs. Le, Nguyen, Tran, Diep, Ngo, Tran, and Nguyen (2014) synthesized groups of factors influencing students' college choice decisions, which were reviewed in the above topics. Subsequently, the authors suggested a developed research model on additional aspiration choices of students from HUTECH Faculty of Business Administration including the following factors: Benchmark, Prestige, Communication, Geographic Location, Facilities, Lecturers, Tuition and Assistance. The analysis found that Benchmark was rejected from the officially theoretical research model. The reason was that there was no difference in the benchmarks of most private schools, so students were not interested in this factor. Research results also indicated that Lecturers and Geographic location significantly affect college choice of students.

In summary, based on the results of the domestic and foreign studies, students' satisfaction is commonly influenced by factors such as Facilities, Academic quality, Lecturers, Career opportunities after graduation, School services, etc. Most of the current researches in Vietnam have neither mentioned the students’ satisfaction with the Geographic location of the university nor demonstrated that the more satisfied students are with college’ services, the higher their trust in the college brand is.

### 2.3. Brand

There are different views on brand. However, two main perspectives have existed in literature. Firstly, a brand is a name, symbol, sign, design or combination of these elements to identify a product or service of a manufacturer and distinguish it from other competitors’ brands (Bennett, 1995; Nguyen & Nguyen, 2011). Obviously, the basic function of a brand is to distinguish the product from others. The second view stated that the former perspective of brand failed to explain the role of the brand in the context of the increasingly integrated and intensely competitive world economy. Murphy (1987) generalized the composition of a brand includes "... product, packaging, trademark, propaganda, advertising and the whole process of product displays," and concluded that brand is "the sum of all things in terms of tangible matters, aesthetics, senses and emotions." According to Kotler and Bliemel (1999), brand is a set of attributes providing values target customers require. Davis (2002) then suggested that brand is a "promise" of sellers to buyers about features and benefits of the product or services. Thus, the product is a part of the brand.

In this study, the author advocated the second view. In business, brand is not only a product but also distinguishes it from other products and provides psychological needs to customers. Today’s enterprises view brand as the most valuable asset that they hold.

### 2.4. University Brand

In the context of higher education being more commercial, the concept of university brand has been received numerous concerns from education researchers. Universities in the world have been adopting more and more integrated marketing techniques to design their brand communications. Harvey (1996) stated that branding in higher education helps students and their parents specifically identify offered services they are fostered to use. McNally and Speak (2002) defined a university brand as the feeling or emotion of a student describing experiences of purchasing products or services of an academic institution. Bulotaite (2003) emphasized that a university is a complex organization that only brand is able to simplify this complexity and enhance its attractiveness to students and student loyalty. Schackner (2004) from Point Park University in Pittsburgh announced a $1 million branding campaign through billboards, newspaper ads, and other media. Hacker (2005) from University of Houston decided to launch a$5 million campaign which has been implemented over five years in an effort to build image and proactive access.

Balmer (2001) argued that the strategic importance of holding a strong brand in educational sector has been acknowledged by many university managers. Hemsley-Brown and Goonawardana (2007) argued that there are few of experimental research on branding, identification and image in higher education sector. As Chapleo (2010) stated, when mentioning the brand name of a university, it is obvious that “associations, emotions, images” of the school are immediately evoked. The mission of university branding is to build, manage and develop these impressions. Chapleo (2011) then found that that branding in higher education sector has been a controversial concern with little research and few attentions from researchers, though there are some studies on marketing in higher education. Geographic location of a university is not mentioned in the above studies as a factor enhancing the brand value of the university.

Sultan and Ho (2014) presented an integrated model demonstrating not only the factors influencing service quality of a university, but also the results of delivering the service quality. The result of this study showed that past experiences are preconditions for perceived service quality (academy, administration, facility). The result of perceived service quality is Students’ satisfaction, Confidence, Brand efficiency, and Behavioral intention of students. This model explained how the service quality is formed and how perceived service quality affects college brand. It is essential for universities to consider this research model to gain sustainability in global competition, enhance brand efficiency as well as attract and retain students.

In Vietnam, Nguyen and Nguyen (2014) showed a model of university branding consisting of Advertising, Activities of admissions consultancy, Promotions during learning process and Word-of-mouth (WOM) activities. These four factors alter students' perceptions of university image and reputation. This leads to a positive impact on students’ loyalty to their university. In this study, the authors presented basic theories of brand and branding in the business and education sector. From this perspective, the arguments and research model on branding for Vietnamese education are demonstrated based on students’ perception. However, this study develops research model but has not yet verified the model. Therefore, it is necessary for the following studies to have modeling test.

Nguyen (2015) conducted a study on "Brand value of a university based on employees: Research in Vietnam". In this study, the author simultaneously took into account three groups of factor affecting brand value based on employees: (1) Marketing, (2) Human Resource Management and (3) Working Environment. The research results showed that there are 2 factors directly affecting the components of brand value based on employees: (1) Internal branding, and (2) Organizational culture. In particular, Organizational culture is the most influential factor on brand value based on employees. Most of researches on university brand name in Vietnam have not synthetically studied subjects directly building brand value of the university are Lecturers, Staff and Students.

### 2.5. Hypothesis

In former published studies, there are general remarks about brand of university and university branding without detailing about various aspects of university brand. There have been no studies currently evaluating university brand both internally and externally. Based on this fact, the authors conduct a research on HUTECH brand with two approaches: (1) From lecturers and staff (internal model) and (2) From students (external model). These two models are based on the principle research framework of Sultan et al. (2014) and two research models of HUTECH by Le, Nguyen, Tran, Diep, Ngo, Tran, and Nguyen (2014, 2015). In this study, the author presented a brand research model of HUTECH University with the approach from students. The research external model is based on the PATH model in which the more satisfied students are with factors serving learning activities as well as teaching, the more confident they are of their school. When students have confidence in the school, they will praise, promote and introduce positively about the school whereby the brand value of the school will be enhanced. The PATH model is a multiple linear regression model with independent variables that are qualitative or quantitative variables; intermediate and independent variables are quantitative variables. Regression analysis with the PATH model is to analyze the effect of independent variable on the dependent variable through the intermediate variable.

Hypothesis 1: Geographic location has a positive effect on Confidence.

The geographical location of an enterprise is the place where the enterprise places its offices or factories. The tangible assets of the enterprise yield higher value in case its location places not only near the central areas of city, province, or district but also at the area where the transportation has been developed.

Hypothesis 2: Facilities has a positive effect on Confidence.

School facilities are systems of various physical and technical elements such as campus, dormitory, libraries, educational facilities, and other facilities, etc. used for the education and training of a school.

Hypothesis 3: Lecturers has a positive effect on Confidence.

This factor mentions the lecturer’s accumulated knowledge and the ability to convey this knowledge. Evaluation of students determines whether or not the lecturer has scholarly knowledge of the subject. Students must understand clearly what the lecturer impacts them so they can realize the enormous amount of knowledge that the lecturer has been accumulating.

Hypothesis 4: Staff have a positive effect on Confidence.

Staff who work in agencies or organizations distinguish from the administrators at all levels in such agencies or organizations. Since staff frequently contact with students, they must have not only communication skills but also knowledge to answer questions from students.

Hypothesis 5: Confidence has a positive effect on HUTECH brand.

When students have confidence in the school, they have the pleasure of studying in order to find a job, integrate well and become useful people to society. To enhance students’ confidence, the school must also make all commitments to students as soon as they start learning at the school, and after they graduate.

## 3. Research Methods

### 3.1. Research Approach

Qualitative and quantitative methods are used in the process from qualitative research to qualitative research with the aim of constructing, testing models and hypotheses of the model of factors affecting the brand value of private universities at Ho Chi Minh city through measurement of students’ perceptions.

Firstly, qualitative research method was conducted through the focus group discussion. Draft scales are used in the school discussion with 14 leaders, staff and lecturers representing faculties, departments, institutes and 15 undergraduate students of faculties: Tourism and Hospitality management, Accounting - Finance - Banking, Construction, Mechanical Engineering Electrical - Electronics, Foreign Languages and Biotechnology - Environment. Collecting the ideas of group discussions is crucial to do a test interview in order to adjust the scale. Based on researched documents from experts and survey studies on the brand value of university model, the basic factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh city are then finalized. This study adjusts and adds observation variables used to measure concepts in the research model. The result of qualitative research is that the scales have been corrected accordingly and the official survey sheet is used for quantitative research. The quantitative measurement of factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City consists of five factors: (1) Geographic location, (2) Facilities, (3) Lecturers, (4) Staff and (5) HUTECH brand.

After finalizing the survey, quantitative research method is conducted to quantify the factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City. Primary data is processed by software SPSS 20.0 to measure the impact of factors on students’ confidence on the HUTECH brand as follows: Cronbach’s Alpha, Exploratory factor analysis, Multiple linear regression, Path analysis and ANOVA and the level of impact on students’ confidence with gender, faculty and school year. The questionnaire was designed based on 5 levels of Likert scale to assess the factors affecting the brand value of private universities in Ho Chi Minh City.

### 3.2. Sampling Techniques

Stratified sampling was used within Faculties of Tourism and Hospitality management, Accounting - Finance - Banking, Construction, Mechanical Engineering - Electrical - Electronics, Foreign Languages and Biotechnology - Convenience sampling was also employed with the sample size of 500. There are 461 valid samples. The number of male students is 287 students, accounting for 62% and the number of female students is 174 students, accounting for 38%. All students are selected as 3rd and 4th year students of faculties included 100 of Tourism and Hospitality management, 100 0f Accounting - Finance - Banking, 50 of Construction, 50 of Mechanical Engineering - Electrical – Electronics, 40 of Foreign Languages and 60 of Biotechnology – Environment.

## 4. Results

### 4.1. Evaluation of scale reliability by Cronbach’s Alpha

In Table 1, six Cronbach’s alphas which range from 0,745 to 0,804 demonstrate high reliability measurement scales.

### 4.2. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA)

22 observed variables of 4 factors Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers are analyzed by the Principal components analysis and Varimax rotation. After two times for analyzing, four factors are extracted from the 21 observed variables (NV6 variable was eliminated in the second analyzing because of factor loading < 0,5).

From the results of EFA in Table 2, the adjusted formal theoretical research model includes four factors influencing students’ confidence. Specifically, this model has 5 component variables, including four independent variables (Facilities, Geographic location, Lecturers and Staff) and a dependent variable (Confidence).

### 4.3. Regression Analysis

R value is 0,880> 0,5. So, this model appropriates to use for evaluating the relationship between dependent and independent variables. In addition, the R2 is 0,775. This means the Multiple linear regression model is constructed in accordance with the 77.5% data. In other words, 77,5% students' belief is explained by the Multiple linear regression model. The rest is due to errors and other factors. The Durbin Watson test result = 1.476. It is in the range [1 <D <3]. So, there is no correlation of the residuals.

Confidence = a0 + a1 * Facilities + a2 * Geographic location + a3 * Lecturers + a4 * Staff

In Table 3, the t-stat value of independent variables (Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers) are higher than the value of > tα / 2 (1, n). Four t-stats which range from 9,359 to 14,018 are higher than t0,025 (4, 456) = 1,965 and four Sig. values are lower than 0,05. In addition,

the VIF coefficients of independent variables are lower than 2, indicating no multi-collinearity occurs.

Based on Table 3, from the result of Standardized coefficients, the Multiple linear regression equation of the factors affecting the students’ confidence is as follows:

Confidence = 0,366 * Geographic location + 0,246 * Staff + 0,257 * Facilities + 0,321 * Lecturers

Thus, the Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers factors all have a positive influence on the students’ confidence. It means that the higher the Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers, the higher the students’ confidence.

Among these 4 factors, the most influential factor is Geographic location, because its Standardized coefficient is highest (β = 0,366). The followers are Lecturers, Facilities and Staff. Thus, H1, H2, H3, H4 hypothesis, for formal theoretical model of students’ confidence is accepted. Through the test results, the formal adjusted model of students’ confidence is shown as follows (Figure 1):

### 4.4. PATH Analysis

PATH model is used to analyze the influence of Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers factors (independent variables) on the HUTECH brand factor (dependent variable) through Confidence factor (intermediate variable). Analytical technique is also Linear regression in which Confidence factor is independent variable and HUTECH brand is dependent variable.

R value is 0,891 > 0,5. So, this model appropriates to use for evaluating the relationship between dependent and independent variables. The t-stat value of independent variables (Confidence) = 42,108 is higher than the value of t0,025 (1, 459) = 1,9651 and Sig. values =0,000 is lower than 0,05.

Based on table 4, from the result of Standardized coefficient, the Simple linear regression equation of the factor affecting the HUTECH brand is as follows:

HUTECH brand = 0.891 * Confidence

Confidence factor has a strong positive influence on the HUTECH brand. It means that the higher the students’ confidence, the higher the HUTECH brand.

R2M fit coefficient of the PATH model:

R2M = 1- (1- 0.793) * (1 - 0.737) = 0.9534 = 95.34%

R2M fit coefficient of PATH model is very high.

Base on Table 3 and 4, the results of the formal PATH model is as follows (Figure 2):

## 5. Discussion

In the model proposed by the research team, a new factor is Geographic location, which has not been mentioned in models that have studied the brand value of private universities. The results showed that Geographic location Factor composed of 5 variables (GL1, GL2, GL3, GL4, GL5) and remained unchanged through Cronbach's Alpha analysis and EFA (Table 2.1, 2.2). Additionally, the competitive advantages of HUTECH are that (1) Training centers are in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, close together, (2) The bus stop is in front of the school gate, (3) School campuses are near the provincial bus station so that it is easy for students lease a house, work overtime and visit family on weekends. This factor has the most powerful effect (standardized β = 0,366) on students’ confidence. This proves to bring the new factor of Geographic location into enhancing HUTECH’s brand value is suitable.

Lecturer factor has 5 observation variables (LEC1, LEC2, LEC3, LEC4, LEC5) by Cronbach's Alpha analysis and EFA (Table 2.1, 2.2). Lecturer factor is repeated study. However, Lecturers factor is still the top concern of students when they choose to study at a university in 4 years. Nowadays, education is a service; students desire to study with lecturers with extensive knowledge, easy-to-understand, friendly and enthusiastic teaching methods. This factor has the second strongest influence (standardized β = 0,321) to student’s confidence. This demonstrates that Lecturers factor is still the top concern of the university in enhancing the brand value to attract students.

Facilities factor remained 6 observation variables (FAC1, FAC2, FAC3, FAC4, FAC5, FAC6) by Cronbach's Alpha analysis and EFA (Table 2.1, 2.2). Facilities factor is repeat study, however the result shows that this factor has the less influence to student’s confidence (standardized β = 0,257). Nowadays, most private universities are boldly investing in the construction of new facilities and modern educational devices. Therefore, it is no longer a matter of student interest.

Staff factor remained 5 observation variables (STA1, STA2, STA3, STA4, STA5) by Cronbach's Alpha analysis and EFA (Table 2.1, 2.2). Staff factor is repeated study too. It has the least influence to student’s confidence (standardized β = 0,246). The leader of university should have the selection and training of professional staff to withstand work pressure.

The Confidence factor is a new point in the PATH model to study HUTECH brand value. The results show that the Confidence factor remained 6 observed variables (CON1, CON2, CON3, CON4, CON5, CON6) by Cronbach's Alpha analysis and EFA (Table 2.1, 2.2). This shows that students and their families still choose HUTECH, because it has made the commitments: (1) The teachers have good morale, (2) The quality of the university's services are reliable, and (3) The university's diploma increases the ability to get jobs.

After being analyzed by Cronbach's Alpha and EFA, the HUTECH brand factor retains five observed variables (HUB1, HUB2, HUB3, HUB4, HUB5) (Table 2.1, 2.2). This shows that HUTECH is still the leading brand in private universities. A well-known university, many prestigious businesses like recruiting graduates, is a reliable place for students to study.

After two-stage regression analysis:

Stage 1: Geographic location, Staff, Facilities and Lecturers factors (independent variables) have a proportional influence on the Confidence factor (dependent variable). The most influential factor is Geographic location, followed by Lecturers, Facilities and Staff. With R = 0.800 and R2 = 0.775, this is the appropriate model to use to evaluate the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

Stage 2: The Confidence factor (independent variable) has a strong influence on the HUTECH brand factor (dependent variable) with R = 0.891 and R2 = 0.794 (Table 2.3). The model explained 79.4% of the same effect direction on students' confidence with HUTECH brand. R2M fit coefficient of the PATH model is 0.9534 (95.34%). These results are very high figure in which show the interest of students and their families to HUTECH. These figures prove the university's worthy achievements over the past 20 years.

The results show that students, their families and society still have high confidence on the HUTECH brand. This proves that using PATH to test the HUTECH’s brand value enhancement model is appropriate. So as choosing a school for their children, HUTECH is still the parent’s top choice. The more interested the society, the better the value of HUTECH brand.

## 6. Managerial Implication and Conclusion

Most of the student's life during school hours and extra work is tied to school and local residence. Besides, Geographic location is the most influential factor in students' beliefs. A university that meets not only elements of school facilities such as buildings, playgrounds, libraries, educational facilities, and natural surroundings around the school, but also dormitory for students near the school, is a very competitive element to attract large numbers of students.

Nowadays, Ho Chi Minh City’s real estate prices climb higher as well as inner-city traffic congestion gets worse. Thus, universities should move to suburban areas. Main campus and operational center should be located integrated at the same place to facilitate the management, teaching and learning. Last but not least, the universities should build dormitories and canteens to stabilize students’ lives and mood for learning. In the future, Metro lines are built will help students come to university from home easily. However, at the metro stations there are few stairs crossing the highway and the bus stop. Private universities should build facilities on the side of the metro to help students to go to school easily.

In order to recruit professional lecturers, good salary payment must be taken into consideration. In general, it is necessary for the universities to have strong financial resources to build the campus as well as to pay staff and lecturers. Since all revenues of the universities depend on the number of students, the universities must gain prestige, build a strong brand identity to enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness of students.

Universities should attract more young lectures graduated in developed countries who are the innovative people, absorb the elite of the world to convey to the students. To provide incentives so that the lectures feel assured of their works and devote their life to the long-term development of the university with wages, bonuses and benefits and, most importantly, the sale of preferred stock.

In the future, the Ministry of Education and Training will drop a minimum grade for enrolling universities. Thus, the competition in new student enrollment among universities in general and private universities in particular will be more severe. Therefore, when it comes to student attraction, a university with a well-respected brand has an enormous advantage.

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