Purpose: This study aims to use a holistic approach to empirically examine the direct and indirect relationships of both core and supporting consumer-based brand equity (CBBE) dimensions from students’ perspectives and the underlying impact they have on building a robust university brand equity. It also tests whether student perceptions of the importance of the brand equity constructs significantly differ based on demographics. Design/methodology/approach: The study adopts the core and supporting university brand equity dimensions that have been tested for reliability and validity in prior research. Data were collected at a major university in the USA. The study used judgment sampling to carefully select a targeted sample of various colleges and class levels. A total of 439 useable surveys were collected. Findings: The results of partial least squares–structural equation modeling reveal significant relationships between both core and supporting brand equity dimensions. The core brand equity dimensions include brand awareness, perceived quality, brand association, brand trust, learning environment, emotional environment, university reputation and brand loyalty. The supporting brand equity dimensions include library services, dining services, residence hall and physical facilities. Significant direct and/or indirect relationships were found between the core and supporting CBBE dimensions. The demographic variables of gender, semester standing and living arrangement also influence the importance of some of the core and supporting dimensions. Practical implications: The results suggest that females, freshman and students living on-campus require specific attention in higher education. For a better representation and understanding of the university student population, we recommend that future studies use probability sampling and multiple universities for cross-validation. Originality/value: Using the brand ecosystem framework, this is the first comprehensive study testing the relationships between both core and supporting CBBE dimensions in higher education. The study offers valuable insights to university stakeholders for building a strong university brand. It also confirms that the measures of the CBBE brand equity dimensions are valid and are applicable to other higher education institutions.
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