University brand equity: An empirical investigation of its dimensions

Musa Pinar, Paul Trapp, Tulay Girard, Thomas E. Boyt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Purpose-In today’s complex and highly competitive marketplace, universities and colleges, realizing a need to develop sustainable strategies, have turned to branding as a solution. However, because of unique service characteristics, universities’ branding attempts may not always result in success. The purpose of this paper, utilizing the concept of brand equity as a foundation of understanding, is to present a framework and scale measurements of university brand equity and its dimensions. Design/methodology/approach-Because no prior measurement scales for university branding have existed, the scale measures for this study are compiled from the literature on brand equity measurements identifying the core and supporting value-creation factors for higher education. For this exploratory study, several pretests and exploratory factor analyses were conducted to ensure that the scale items are comprehensible and clearly measure the intended constructs. Students are considered as the target population for this study. Data for the main study were collected at a comprehensive university in the Midwestern USA. A total of 30 classes with varying sizes provided 439 usable surveys. Findings-Empirical results from the survey research suggest that some of the brand equity dimensions are more important in developing strong university brands. Of the core dimensions, perceived quality of faculty is the most important brand equity dimension, followed by university reputation and emotional environment, brand loyalty, and brand awareness dimensions for creating a strong university brand. Among the supporting brand equity dimensions, library services was the most important for creating a strong university brand, followed by student living (residence halls and dining services), career development, and physical facilities (e.g. gym, classrooms, labs). Research limitations/implications-Although the target population was students, as a first step, the survey was administered to students at one university. Administering surveys to students at different universities and comparing the results would improve the reliability of the brand equity scales. The significant correlations found among the brand equity dimensions suggest the interconnectedness of these dimensions. The findings have implications for developing and implementing university brand strategies. The authors suggest serious consideration to be given to a holistic approach to branding efforts. Originality/value-The branding literature offers no prior research that develops and tests a scale or examines the issues and factors that are important for developing strong university brands and brand equity for higher education institutions. This study develops the scale measurements through a comprehensive literature review, tests the validity of the measurements, and takes the brand equity theory one step further by identifying the core and supporting-value creation factors suggested sporadically in the literature. The framework suggests that both core and supporting value-creating activities are dynamically interrelated and work jointly in creating student learning experiences, and ultimately, a strong university brand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-634
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 5 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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