Image is a term used in everyday life with several meanings. In some cases, it refers to visual representation and is sometimes used as a mental abstraction. In the field of business management it is accepted that, in a competitive market, it is necessary to have a brand image that is known and valued by consumers.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the study of the image as a mental representation has aroused growing interest in recent years.
Since the establishment of the Bologna Process in the European Higher Education Area in 1999, higher education institutions have gained importance and have positioned themselves in the European community as R&D&I and learning centers, created and maintained by society with the objective of achieving the prosperity of the population through the generation of knowledge.
As is the case in most economic sectors, competition has increased, with the emergence of new university institutions, both public and private, or even with the incorporation of distance and open education models in the most accepted universities after the pandemic. of covid-19.
Along with the challenge of adapting to new technologies, higher education institutions face growing competition that forces them to connect with society, differentiate themselves and position themselves to attract students: to do so, they need to rethink their image and seek a defined projection and deliberate.
The image of private universities
Private universities seek to maintain their competitiveness in the market through the projection of a characteristic image to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
How do they do that? What attributes are they looking for? In general, the image is influenced by a combination of tangible attributes or benefits and others of a psychological nature.
Some experts propose a model that analyzes this image through three dimensions: functional, affective and reputation aspects.
The image not only helps to stand out in an increasingly varied offer, but it influences the management of the institution itself: it affects reputation, and it directly affects the satisfaction and trust of students and even their retention and loyalty.
Quality, personality and commitment
Our study of the image of private universities is carried out on a sample of the global population . The results show that the individuals surveyed value the high quality of private university training, as well as facilities and research, as functional attributes to help society; while emotionally it is determined that the private university arouses sympathy, transmits a great personality and does not disappoint its clients .
Finally, in reputational terms, respondents confirm that the private university is committed to society and that it occupies high positions in university rankings.
Those surveyed believe that the private university provides a high value compared to the price that must be paid for it. This functional attribute is also identified as an affective attribute (price perception contains almost more affective than functional elements). The consolidation of the private university in its market is considered a reputational and functional aspect.
In the case of Spain, the survey determines that citizens do not perceive major differences between private and public universities in functional attributes (that is, they do not think that some work better than others), and the differences are more linked to reputational or affective.
These results coincide with other research in that the strengths of the Spanish public university are the variety of degrees, the research programs developed, the international prestige of some of them, and even the lowest public prices.
The respondents also do not consider that the fact of studying at a private university depends on the type of person; nor does ideology influence the decision to study in a public or private institution.
These results open the door to more research on the image of both public and private universities and to what extent it is a fundamental element to take into account in a panorama of emergence of new institutions and increasing competition.
Author Bios: Polished Warden Purification is a PhD, Adjunct Professor (Lecturer), Department of Communication and Arts and Belén Gutiérrez-Villar is a Titular teacher. Marketing and market research both at Loyola Andalusia University