Influential factors contributing to the understanding of international students’ choice of Malaysian higher education institutions: Qualitative study with a focus on expected benefits

  • Osama K. Haniya Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
  • Hamdan Said Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
Keywords: students’ choice, higher education institution, international students, expected benefits, Malaysia


This research aimed to identify the influential factors contributing to the international students’ choice of Malaysian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), focusing on the expected benefits. Additionally, the study contributes to the development of the higher education sector in Malaysia by providing recommendations to the HEIs based on the students’ perceptions. To achieve this purpose, the researchers utilized a qualitative approach through interviews where the study targeted the international students in Malaysia; 18 students were interviewed until saturation was reached. The thematic analysis was utilized to analyze the interviews where five major influential factors were highlighted and investigated: reliability, assurance, tangibility, empathy, and responsiveness. The results showed that the Malaysian universities provide higher than average services to international students, which met most of their expectations; this is clear through the international students’ answers to questions under different constructs such as reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy, and responsibility. The international students believe that the brand image and reputation of HEIs have a positive impact on their choice and expectations, and they believe that Malaysian HEIs are among the world’s top universities. The study contributes to Malaysian HEIs in terms of the students’ feedback that could be an advantage for existing efforts to develop the academic services of the country.

Received: 17 January 2021
Accepted: 18 February 2022


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Osama K. Haniya, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia

PhD from School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia.

Hamdan Said, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia

Professor, Head of the Higher Education Research Group, School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia.


Ali, Mazhar, and Masood Ahmed. “Determinants of Students’ Loyalty to University: A Service-Based Approach.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2018.

Anderson, Philip H., Ann Hubbard, and Leigh Lawton. “Student Motivation to Study Abroad and Their Intercultural Development.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 26, no. 1 (August 15, 2015): 39–52.

Arambewela, Rodney, and John Hall. “An Empirical Model of International Student Satisfaction.” Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics 21, no. 4 (October 2, 2009): 555–69.

Arkorful, Valentina, and Nelly Abaidoo. “The Role of E-Learning, Advantages and Disadvantages of its Adoption in Higher Education.” International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 12, no. 1 (2015): 29-42.

Baharun, Rohaizat, Zubaidah Awang, and Siti Falinda Padlee. “International Students Choice Criteria for Selection of Higher Learning in Malaysian Private Universities.” African Journal of Business Management 5, no. 12 (2011): 4704- 4714.

Bakar, Muhammad Shukri, and Rosli Mahmood. “Linking Transformational Leadership and Corporate Entrepreneurship to Performance in the Public Higher Education Institutions in Malaysia.” Advances in Management and Applied Economics 4, no. 3 (2014): 109.

Beloucif, Ahmed, Messaoud Mehafdi, and Naa Ayeley Komey. “Expectation as a Key Determinant of International Students’ Satisfaction.” Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education ahead-of-print, no. ahead-of-print (June 25, 2018),

Biggs, John B., and Catherine So-Kum Tang. Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does. New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 2011.

Bordia, Sarbari, Prashant Bordia, Michael Milkovitz, Yaxi Shen, and Simon Lloyd D. Restubog. “What do International Students Want? An Exploration of the Content of International Students’ Psychological Contract in Business Education.” Studies in Higher Education 44, no. 8 (2019): 1488-1502.

Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology,” Qualitative Research in Psychology 3, no. 2 (2006): 77–101.

Chemishanova, Marieta. “International Students’ Expectations of and Satisfaction with Academic Advising at a Community College.” EdD diss. University of Central Florida, 2018.

Chu, Man Yee, Bi Kai Foong, Chee Liang Lai, and Ai Nee Pang. “Foreign Students’ Enrolment in Malaysian Higher Education Institution.” PhD diss., UTAR, 2015.

Clarke, Irvine, Theresa B. Flaherty, Newell D. Wright, and Robert M. McMillen. “Student Intercultural Proficiency from Study Abroad Programs.” Journal of Marketing Education 31, no. 2 (May 2009): 173–81.

Creswell, John W., and Timothy C. Guetterman. Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research, 6th ed. New York, NY: Pearson, 2019.

Đonlagić, Sabina, and Samira Fazlić. “Quality Assessment in Higher Education Using the SERVQUALQ Model.” Management: Journal of Contemporary Management Issues 20, no. 1 (2015): 39-57.

Fernandez, Jacqueline Liza. “An Exploratory Study of Factors Influencing the Decision of Students to Study at Universiti Sains Malaysia.” Kajian Malaysia: Journal of Malaysian Studies 28, no. 2 (2010): 107-136.

Fleischman, David, Maria M. Raciti, and Meredith Lawley. “Examining International Students’ Expectations of Third-Party Community Engagement as a Value Co- Creation Mechanism.” Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 27, no. 1 (2019): 42-57.

Fortino, Andres. “The Purpose of Higher Education: To Create Prepared Minds,” The Evolllution: A Modern Campus Illumination, June 26, 2018.

Ge, Lin, Douglas Brown, and Douglas Durst. “Chinese International Students’ Experiences in a Canadian University.” Journal of International Students 9, no. 2 (May 15, 2019): 582–612.

Gorard, Stephen, Beng Huat See, and Peter Davies. The Impact of Attitudes and Aspirations on Educational Attainment and Participation. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 2012.

Hanaysha, Jalal RM, Haim Hilman Abdullah, and Ari Warokka. “Service Quality and Students’ Satisfaction at Higher Learning Institutions: The Competing Dimensions of Malaysian Universities’ Competitiveness.” The Journal of Southeast Asian Research 2011 (2011): 1-10.

Hennings, Matthias, and Shin Tanabe. “Study Abroad Objectives and Satisfaction of International Students in Japan.” Journal of International Students 8, no. 4 (October 1, 2018): 1914-1925.

Hu, Claire, Christine Min Wotipka, and Wen Wen. “International students in Chinese Higher Education: Choices, Expectations, and Experiences by Region of Origin.” In Global perspectives and local challenges surrounding international student mobility, edited by Bista, Krishna, and Charlotte Foster, 153-178. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2016.

Janoskova, Katarina, and Pavol Kral. “Perception of Selected Sportswear Brands with an Emphasis on Expected Benefits and Features as a Prerequisite for Customer Satisfaction.” SHS Web of Conferences, vol. 74, no. 01008 (2020): 1-7.

Jibeen, Tahira, and Masha Asad Khan. “Internationalization of Higher Education: Potential Benefits and Costs.” International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education (IJERE) 4, no. 4 (December 1, 2015): 196-199.

Knight, Jane. “Internationalization: Concepts, Complexities and Challenges.” In International Handbook of Higher Education, edited by James J. S. Forrest and Philip G. Althach, 207–227. Dordrecht: Springer, 2007.

Lee, Christine S., David J. Therriault, and Tracy Linderholm. “On the Cognitive Benefits of Cultural Experience: Exploring the Relationship between Studying Abroad and Creative Thinking.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 26, no. 5 (July 19, 2012): 768–78.

Li, Yue, Nancy Goodrich Mitts, and Susan C. Whiston. “Chinese International Students’ Expectations about Career Counseling.” Journal of Career Development 48, no. 1(2019): 73-88.

Mesidor, Jean Kesnold, and Kaye F. Sly. “Factors that Contribute to the Adjustment of International Students.” Journal of International Students 6, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 262–82.

Mickelson, Roslyn Arlin. “The Attitude-Achievement Paradox among Black Adolescents.” Sociology of Education 63, no. 1 (January 1990): 44-61.

Migin, Melissa W., Mohammad Falahat, Mohd Shukri Ab Yajid, and Ali Khatibi. “Impacts of Institutional Characteristics on International Students’ Choice of Private Higher Education Institutions in Malaysia.” Higher Education Studies 5, no. 1 (January 20, 2015): 31-42.

Morris, Huw. “Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education: the Battle for World-Class Excellence.” Studies in Higher Education 36, no. 6, (November 1, 2011): 741-742.

Mukhtar, Umer, Suleman Anwar, Umaid Ahmed, and Muhammad Awais Baloch. “Factors Affecting the Service Quality of Public and Private Sector Universities Comparatively: An Empirical Investigation.” Researchers World 6, no. 3 (2015): 132-144.

Mulder, Raoul A, Jon M Pearce, and Chi Baik. “Peer Review in Higher Education: Student Perceptions before and after Participation.” Active Learning in Higher Education 15, no. 2 (April 16, 2014): 157–71.

Nadiri, Halil, and Seyed Muhammad Ali Mayboudi. “Diagnosing University Students’ Zone of Tolerance from University Library Services.” Malaysian Journal of Library & Information Science 15, no. 1 (2010): 1-21.

Napitupulu, D., R. Rahim, D. Abdullah, M. I. Setiawan, L. A. Abdillah, A. S. Ahmar, J. Simarmata, R. Hidayat, H. Nurdiyanto, and A. Pranolo. “Analysis of Student Satisfaction toward Quality of Service Facility.” Journal of Physics: Conference Series 954, no. 1 (January 2018): 1-7.

Ndanusa, Mohammed Manzuma-Ndaaba, Yoshifumi Harada, Abd Rahim Romle, and Kareem Olanrewaju. “International Education as Tourism Product: The Malaysia Experience.” International Journal of Administration and Governance 1, no. 4 (2015): 74-81.

Nilsson, Per A., and Nannette Ripmeester. “International Student Expectations: Career Opportunities and Employability.” Journal of International Students 6, no. 2 (2016): 614-631.

Nuria Huete-Alcocer. “A Literature Review of Word of Mouth and Electronic Word of Mouth: Implications for Consumer Behavior.” Frontiers in Psychology 8, no. 1256 (July 25, 2017): 1-15.

Padlee, Siti Falindah, Abdul Razak Kamaruddin, and Rohaizat Baharun. “International Students’ Choice Behavior for Higher Education at Malaysian Private Universities.” International Journal of Marketing Studies 2, no. 2 (October 20, 2010): 202-211.

Patton, Michael Quinn. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2002.

Pedro, Eugenia, Luis Mendes, and Luís Lourenço. “Perceived Service Quality and Student’s Satisfaction in Higher Education: The Influence of Teaching Methods.” International Journal for Quality Research 12, no. 1 (January 8, 2018): 165-192. Doi: 10.18421/IJQR12.01-10.

Price, I. F., Fides Matzdorf, Louise Smith, and Helen Agahi. “The Impact of Facilities on Student Choice of University.” Facilities 21, no. 10 (October 1, 2003): 212-222.

Renāte Roga, Inga Lapiņa, and Peeter Müürsepp. “Internationalization of Higher Education: Analysis of Factors Influencing Foreign Students’ Choice of Higher Education Institution.” Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 213, no. 2015 (December 2015): 925–30,

Russell, Marilyn. “Marketing Education.” International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 17, no. 1 (January 2005): 65–77.

Saunders, Benjamin, Julius Sim, Tom Kingstone, Shula Baker, Jackie Waterfield, Bernadette, Heather Burroughs, and Clare Jinks. “Saturation in Qualitative Research: Exploring its Conceptualization and Operationalization.” Quality & Quantity 52, no. 4 (September 14, 2017): 1893–1907,

Shanka, Mesay Sata. “Bank Service Quality, Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty in the Ethiopian Banking Sector.” Journal of Business Administration and Management Sciences Research 1, no. 1 (2012): 001-009.

Shekarchizadeh, Ahmadreza, Amran Rasli, and Huam Hon-Tat. “SERVQUAL in Malaysian Universities: Perspectives of International Students.” Business Process Management Journal 17, no. 1 (February 8, 2011): 67–81.

Simon, Marilyn K. “Validity and reliability in qualitative studies.” Retrieved from (2011).

Sin, Mun Chong, Bin Boon Yusof, and Kit Yeng Sin. “International Students’ Satisfaction Level towards Service Quality in Academic Aspect and Loyalty to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.” International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences 8, no. 10 (October 28, 2018): 838-850.

Sultana, Seyama, and Abdul Momen. “International Student Satisfaction and Loyalty: a Comparative Study of Malaysian and Australian Higher Learning Institutions.” Journal of Intercultural Management 9, no. 1 (2017): 101-142.

Vaz, Anthony, and Shaheen Mansori. “Malaysian Private Education Quality: Application of SERVQUAL Model.” International Education Studies 6, no. 4 (2013): 164-170.

Watson, Jeffrey R., and Richard L. Wolfel. “The Intersection of Language and Culture in Study Abroad: Assessment and Analysis of Study Abroad Outcomes.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 25, no. 1 (March 15, 2015): 57–72.

Yang, Yibo, Simone Volet, and Caroline Mansfield. “Motivations and Influences in Chinese International Doctoral Students’ Decision for STEM Study Abroad.” Educational Studies 44, no. 3 (June 30, 2017): 264–78.

Yousapronpaiboon, Khanchitpol. “SERVQUAL: Measuring Higher Education Service Quality in Thailand.” Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 116 (February 2014): 1088–95.

Yusoff, Mazirah, Fraser McLeay, and Helen Woodruffe-Burton. “Dimensions Driving Business Student Satisfaction in Higher Education.” Quality Assurance in Education 23, no. 1 (February 2, 2015): 86–104.

Zafiropoulos, Costas, and Vasiliki Vrana. “Service Quality Assessment in a Greek Higher Education Institute.” Journal of Business Economics and Management 9, no. 1 (2008): 33-45.

Zeeshan, Muhammad, Sabbar Sabbar, Shahid Bashir, and Rai Hussain. “Foreign Students’ Motivation for Studying in Malaysia.” International Journal of Asian Social Science 3, no. 3 (2013): 833–46.

Zeichner, Ken. “Rethinking the Connections between Campus Courses and Field Experiences in College- and University-Based Teacher Education,” Journal of Teacher Education 61, no. 1-2 (December 30, 2009): 89–99.

Zeithaml, Valarie A, A Parasuraman, and Leonard L Berry. Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations. New York: The Free Press, 1990.

How to Cite
Haniya, Osama K., and Hamdan Said. 2022. “Influential Factors Contributing to the Understanding of International students’ Choice of Malaysian Higher Education Institutions: Qualitative Study With a Focus on Expected Benefits”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 9 (2), 63-97.