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Marketing Intelligence & Planning
The changing body of students: A study of the motives, expectations and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students Jie Liu

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To cite this document: Jie Liu, (2010),"The changing body of students", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 28 Iss 7 pp. 812 830 Permanent link to this document: Downloaded on: 12 October 2014, At: 16:08 (PT) References: this document contains references to 46 other documents. To copy this document: The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 1982 times since 2010*

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The changing body of students
A study of the motives, expectations and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students
Jie Liu
Department of Business and Management Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to assess the motives, expectations and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students, and discuss possible implications for postgraduate marketing education in the UK. Design/methodology/approach – The research uses primary data collected from postgraduate marketing students at four British universities. Factor analysis is used to evaluate the convergent validity of the survey questionnaire and Cronbach’s alpha coefficient to examine the internal consistency and reliability of the variables composing the major scales. Findings – The results indicate that postgraduate marketing education today faces a culturally diverse student body coupled with a notable lack of relevant work experience. Students are found to have relatively low perception of their preparedness for postgraduate study and high expectations for support and practical experience in marketing. Research limitations/implications – The sample used is relatively small although the high response rate achieved would help add validity to the study. Further research should examine the ways in which students draw on their prior-learning experience to make sense of their learning process. Practical implications – This study should be of interest to postgraduate marketing programme and module leaders. It suggests that a realignment of curriculum design and various support activities on the part of postgraduate marketing education providers are needed to respond to the changing body of students. Originality/value – The study offers a timely measure of the motives, preparedness, and expectations of postgraduate marketing students. The findings should be of immediate and practical value to postgraduate marketing educators in the UK. Keywords Postgraduates, Higher education, Marketing, United Kingdom, Curricula Paper type Research paper

Received March 2010 Revised June 2010 Accepted June 2010

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Introduction Postgraduate marketing education in the UK has changed dramatically in the last decade. Internationalisation and growth in student mobility have resulted in significant changes in the postgraduate marketing student body and a quest for value for money from a British postgraduate qualification (Taylor, 2002). What is notable, in particular, is the growth in the number of international students on taught programmes.
Marketing Intelligence & Planning Vol. 28 No. 7, 2010 pp. 812-830 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0263-4503 DOI 10.1108/02634501011086436

The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments, Dr Paul Ashwin of Lancaster University for his helpful feedback on the earlier versions of the paper, and the marketing colleagues and their students from the four universities involved in the study for their unfailing assistance with the collection of data.

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Furthermore, the marketing debate on the balance between theory and practice (Brennan, 2004; Cox, 2006) has enhanced the need for a closer examination of what and who the postgraduate marketing education is for in order to meet the needs of all stakeholders concerned these being students, educators, as well as employers who increasingly demand for “work-ready” marketing managers. Employers of postgraduate students suggest that there are areas in which more could be done to ensure that postgraduates get maximum benefit from their investment in a postgraduate education and are well equipped to succeed in their chosen career (Universities UK, 2010). Accordingly, it is important that we ask how well we understand the variations in students’ pre-entry characteristics such as their motives, expectations, and preparedness in order to facilitate the teaching of marketing to an increasingly diverse student population. This study aims to determine the extent to which these variations fit in with marketing provision in the UK and suggest ways that the marketing curriculum could be made more relevant to the needs of these students. More specific questions asked by the study include: RQ1. What are students’ motives for choosing postgraduate marketing education? RQ2. What do students expect from postgraduate marketing education? RQ3. How prepared are students with their knowledge, skills and personal attributes in relation to their study? To answer the above questions, the remainder of the paper expands on the changing environment of the postgraduate marketing education in the UK, discusses the theoretical and methodological context of the study, analyses the results and discusses the ways in which postgraduate marketing education could be made more relevant to students’ needs. Background: the changing postgraduate education environment Earlier studies identified trends in the UK postgraduate education and predicted possible changes in the postgraduate qualifications (Taylor, 2002). Among the trends identified were the increasing student numbers on taught programmes, expansion in international student recruitment, and expansion in postgraduate activity in the post-1992 universities especially in taught programmes and part-time study. It was found that in proportionate terms, postgraduate numbers increased more than undergraduates; the nature and purpose of courses changed; and teaching methods were also transformed (Taylor, 2002). Some of the predictions have materialised as demonstrated in the latest statistics of HESA (2009). The number of postgraduate students during 2007-2008 stood at 501,135, an increase of 49.4 per cent from that of 335, 325 in 1994-1995. The main area of postgraduate growth was found to be in taught programmes. Of the 202,010 students who obtained postgraduate qualifications in 2007-2008, 182,540 (90 per cent) obtained their qualifications after following taught programmes in comparison with only 19,470 (10 per cent) who completed their studies mainly by research. The growth might also be attributed to the current economic downturn as in the past postgraduate student demand often fluctuated in line with the employment prospects with numbers increasing at time of economic difficulty (Taylor, 2002). Most critical to the picture of overall demand for UK postgraduate education is that from international students, who currently make up 41 per cent of all full-time students

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on taught programmes (Universities UK, 2009). The number of international students has increased 4.1 times from 40,768 in 1994-1995 to 167,485 in 2007-2008 (HESA, 2009). The latest data from Universities UK (2010) show that taught postgraduate provision along brought in income of over £1.5 billion for universities in 2008-2009. In comparison, UK-domiciled students are a minority among full-time taught postgraduate students (Universities UK, 2009). The growth continues to reflect a growing desire in international students for postgraduate qualifications to support their employment prospect and career development in their own country (Taylor, 2002). However, there have been signs of a slow-down with the growth in the UK due to competition from its European and American counterparts (British Council, 2009) as well as the development of domestic high education in the countries from which UK currently recruit taught postgraduate students, principally China and India (Universities UK, 2009). Moreover, it was suggested that potential students understand the concept of the student “cash cow” and the importance of the fee income they bring to the higher education institutions and are increasingly demanding “value for money” from their host institutions (Centeno et al., 2008; Taylor, 2002). In evaluating the service quality of postgraduate marketing education, Centeno et al. (2008, p. 562) found a perceptual gap between students’ expectations and their perception of higher education services in the UK, “particularly when asked about their confidence on the money spent on higher education”. This largely concurs with the findings of Universities UK (2010) that, although the taught postgraduate market has in many ways been a success story – expanding substantially to meet demand and generating significant fee income for higher education institutions, there are some areas where the mechanism of the market does not work effectively, and where supply does not meet demand. As around half of international students coming to the UK take postgraduate qualifications (Universities UK, 2010), enhancing the educational experience of these students therefore will determine future success of the UK in the international higher education market. Another striking growth is in the number of students taking postgraduate business and management programmes which rose 15.3 times from 6,429 in 1994-1995 to 98,530 in 2007-2008. Since 2003, business and management has remained to be the most popular subject area for international students coming to the UK (Universities UK, 2010). A significant number of these students chose to follow a marketing programme. For example, of the 98,530 students in business and management studies in 2007-2008, 4,110 chose to specialise in marketing with 85 per cent of them from non-EU countries and 15 per cent EU countries (HESA, 2009). The remaining students would study marketing modules as part of their business and management-related curriculum. The impact of the above growth of activities on marketing education is significant and has led to various changes in the structure, content, and delivery of postgraduate marketing qualifications. To meet the needs of an overwhelming proportion of international students, business schools in the UK have rushed to develop new marketing programmes and modules at postgraduate level. Centeno et al. (2008) divided the programmes into four groups: first, the “vanilla” MSc in Marketing offered by 18 out of the 60 institutions examined by the authors; second, MSc in International Marketing (14/60); third, MSc in Marketing Management (13/60); and lastly, the various “specialist” programmes such as MSc Tourism Marketing and MSc Fashion Marketing. Although business schools have had commercial successes, there are substantial questions about the relevance of their educational product (Pfeffer and Fong, 2002; Bruce

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and Schoenfeld, 2006). Many postgraduate marketing offerings were found to offer a very similar curriculum to their undergraduate equivalents and some programme developments are production-led:
[. . .] in that a department of marketing will teach what it can, perhaps influenced by what is being offered at other institutions and only marginally by input from practitioners and past and potential students (Centeno et al., 2008, p. 562).

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Also understandably is the emergence of research on the impact of the growth on academic life (Warwick, 2007; Hall and Sung, 2009), learning, teaching and assessment (Clarke and Flaherty, 2002; Turner, 2006; Liu, 2009) and student experience (Moss, 2005; Cathcart et al., 2006). However, there has been a lack of research in the prior motives, expectations, and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students and its possible implications for marketing education in the UK. Theoretical context Relevance of prior-learning experiences to learning The theoretical orientation of this study lies in the “presage” aspect of the “presage-process-product” model of student learning (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999). The focus is on the prior-learning experiences of students and the notion that the transition from one context to another is not independent of students’ prior experience (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999). Students have been found to “approach their studies in relation to their perceptions of the context, and that approach is related to the quality of their learning outcome” (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999, p. 12). Similarly, Biggs (1996, p. 348) stated that the learner brought with them “an accumulation of assumptions, motives, intentions and previous knowledge” that could influence their learning situation and determine the quality of learning that might subsequently take place. More recently, Byrne and Flood (2005) found that there is a clear consensus that learning approaches are not intrinsic characteristics of students, but rather they are dynamic and are influenced by the learning environment and an array of personal factors including students’ prior-learning experiences. Based on the above notion of a positive relation between students’ pre-entry characteristics and the outcome of their learning, the question asked in this study is not whether students’ prior intentions, expectations, and experience affect their learning but rather what their perceptions are regarding the above factors, and how these perceptions may affect postgraduate marketing education. As Ridley (2004) stated, a fuller understanding of the differences in the expectations between lecturers and students are crucial in ensuring a smooth start of an academic programme. Furthermore, a better understanding of the issues is needed for a greater understanding of the role and purpose of marketing education (Centeno et al., 2008) and to ensure that UK maintains its position as the one of the leading marketing education providers in the global higher education market. Past studies have largely focussed on undergraduate students and other disciplines including accounting (Byrne and Flood, 2005); business and social work (Buchanan et al., 2007); hospitality (Raybould and Wilkins, 2005) and MBA (Baruch and Leeming, 1996). There has been very little research on postgraduate marketing education. The situation is further complicated by the presence of a growing number of international students in postgraduate marketing classrooms because of the environmental

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changes described early in the paper. In the context of the UK and for the purpose of this study, international students are defined as non-UK domiciled students. Existing literature demonstrates that there are differences between home and international students in terms of culture, previous educational experience, learning styles, transition from undergraduate to postgraduate education, and perception of the effectiveness of the learning and teaching methods (Biggs, 1999; Egege and Kutieleh, 2003; Cathcart et al., 2006; Sliwa and Grandy, 2006; Turner, 2006; Liu, 2009; Hall and Sung, 2009). For example, the learning transition for postgraduate students from East Asian countries such as China was found to be extremely hard to approach as the knowledge transitions in the region vary considerably from the Anglo-European conventions (Egege and Kutieleh, 2003). In another study, Chinese students were found to respond better to tutor-centred learning than to process-based, student-centred learning and many found it difficult to adapt to the British learning and teaching conventions (Liu, 2009). Research also found that lecturers and students hold differing perceptions of the reasons for these differences (Hall and Sung, 2009). Whilst lecturers regard language as the essential cause of East Asian students’ difficulties, students recognise that, additionally, a lack of culturally related knowledge of British academic norms present a fundamental challenge to their learning (Hall and Sung, 2009). Students’ prior motives, preparedness, and expectations In this study, the pre-entry characteristics of students are examined through their motives, preparedness and expectations. First, the factors that may motivate students to pursue postgraduate education can be divided into intrinsic, extrinsic and career related. The type of motivation may influence how students learn and how well they perform (Pintrich and Schunk, 1996). Existing literature suggests that intrinsic motivation is more desirable as it is more likely to lead to higher level of engagement and deeper approaches to learning (Paulsen and Gentry, 1995; Byrne and Flood, 2005). In comparison, an extrinsic motivation is associated with lower level of involvement and a more surface approach to learning (Paulsen and Gentry, 1995). Marketing education was previously found to be based on two distinct approaches regarding aims, usually denominated “instrumental” and “intrinsic” (Clarke et al., 2006). The intrinsic or “liberal” approach is concerned with the development of individual potentialities or the development of intellect and character (Peters, 1970; Helgensa et al., 2009), emphasising that education should equip students to make their own free, autonomous choices about the life they will lead (Bridges, 1992). The instrumental approach focuses on skills, implying that marketing subjects offered should give students the opportunity to develop and apply skills in order to enhance personal effectiveness and achievement at work (Bridges, 1992) and that business schools should teach students so they can hit the employment world fully trained (Clarke et al., 2006). Here, education is not perceived as an end in itself, but as the mean to an end (Helgensa et al., 2009). However, others argue that intrinsic and instrumental approaches should not be seen as being on the opposite ends of a spectrum (Dacko, 2006; Stringfellow et al., 2006). In other words, students’ motivations for undertaking postgraduate study are varied. Consequently, marketing education should focus, on the one hand, on developing students “for life” by developing their intellectual and lifelong learning capabilities and, on the other, developing students “for work” by equipping them with marketing knowledge and subject-specific skills.

With regard to the preparedness of students, postgraduate education expects students to develop a deeper understanding of the subject and foster a wider range of cognitive, practical and personal skills than undergraduate education. For international students who make up an overwhelming majority of the student body concerned, there is also the transition they have to make from the education environment of their home country to that of the UK. This can be daunting, as learning in the home country of some students has been found to be very different from that in the UK. For example, the transition of Chinese students to postgraduate marketing education in the UK was found to be held back by their learning styles, cultural background, low confidence with English language and more notably a lack of knowledge of British education conventions (Liu, 2009). As a result, they need to adapt to not only the wider cultural environment but also the pedagogies used in the UK. Any variation between students’ expectations of the education and the reality is likely to exacerbate the difficulties association with the transition (Byrne and Flood, 2005). With regard to their expectations of marketing education, students as well as employers of marketing graduates have been found to have a relatively instrumental view focussing on a combination of skills and practical knowledge (Stringfellow et al., 2006; Crisp and Carrington, 2005). The view appears to be largely shared by the marketing education community based on existing academic literature. Earlier research detected a relatively narrow perspective among employers, with an emphasis on generic skills (e.g. numeracy and literacy) and attitudes (e.g. punctuality) and least emphasis on general knowledge (Garneau and Brennan, 1999). Graduates should not only acquire skills and learn rules but to be capable and motivated to question established professional practices (Teichler and Kehm, 1995). More recent literature pointed towards an academic practitioner divide in the marketing curriculum due to failures in various areas including a mismatched agenda for knowledge creation and application (Brennan, 2004). It was suggested that the British educational policy is driven by the idea that the value of education lies in the instrumental benefits with increased productivity in the workplace being the main aim and that marketing students should be encouraged to develop core skills and techniques of their profession and in addition the ability to critically evaluate these skills and techniques (Clarke et al., 2006). The consensus appears to be that students need to be equipped with the sorts of transferrable skills and competencies required by the profession. Accordingly, marketing education should focus on preparing students for a career in marketing and this requires an explicit focus on developing students into practitioners. However, the reality of marketing education today can be rather different. The theory and practice divide may have widened as a new generation of academics joins the marketing education profession having gained their PhDs and often with limited or no practitioner experience in marketing (Cox, 2006). They tend to take a broader perspective with more emphasis on underpinning theory (Stringfellow et al., 2006) which may lead to the marketing discipline losing its focus and distinctiveness and the opportunity to improve practice and drive relevant knowledge forward (Cox, 2006). Situated in the multi-contexts outlined above, this study explores the issues identified from the contexts with postgraduate marketing students from UK universities. Since the make-up of this student body includes a significant proportion of international students, issues that concern these students will also be identified and discussed where appropriate.

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Methodological context The research is of an empirical nature with primary data collected from postgraduate marketing students at four British universities using a Likert-scale questionnaire. The method of self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was considered suitable due to the self-revealing nature of the study. Respondents may have been more encouraged to make themselves appear in a more favourable light about their pre-entry characteristics in a focus group or interview situation. To strive for a more representative picture across the sector, the research focused on four British universities with distinctive features. The institutions can be characterised as follows: Institution C (Table I) is a big civic or red-brick university which achieved university status before First World War; Institution D is a new or “plate glass” university founded in the 1960s; and Institution A and B are ex-polytechnics which received university status in 1992. The percentage of the responses used from the three types of institutions is as follows: post-1992, 35 per cent; new or “plate glass” university, 21 per cent; and civic or redbrick, 44 per cent. Another consideration in selecting participating institutions was that the institution offers postgraduate programmes with marketing as the only focus. The researcher initially identified six potential institutions, but a refinement using the programme title information available from the web site of these institutions led to the removal of two institutions that do not have marketing only programmes. The remaining four all offer programmes such as the “vanilla” MSc/MA in Marketing, MSc in Marketing Management, and MSc Consumer Marketing that constitute a representation of the major postgraduate marketing offerings in the UK (Centeno et al., 2008). The questionnaire was designed to capture the opinions of respondents regarding factors that might affect their educational experience namely their motives (why they chose to study marketing at postgraduate level), expectations (what they expected from their education) and preparedness (how prepared they were for their chosen programme of study). The factors were selected following a review of existing literature that points towards a positive link between the factors and the outcome of student learning (Biggs, 1996; Prosser and Trigwell, 1999; Byrne and Flood, 2005). The questions asked in the questionnaire were divided into four thematic sections. Section One asked respondents to indicate why they chose to study a master’s degree in marketing by indicating their agreement or disagreement with each statement provided by ticking the box which best reflected their views (5 – strongly agree, 4 – mostly agree, 3 – neither, 2 – mostly disagree, 1 – strongly disagree). The motives listed could be broadly categorised into intrinsic, extrinsic, and career related. In Section Two, respondents were offered a list of knowledge, skills and personal attributes and were asked to evaluate how well they felt they were prepared for each item listed (5 – very well, 4 – well, 3 – neither, 2 – badly, 1 – very badly). The inventories of skills and abilities were
No. of students on module 50 34 47 21 No. of Qs distributed 50 29 45 21 Means of distribution By e-mail In class In class In class No. of Qs returned 5 29 42 21 Percentage of response 10 100 89 100 No. of Qs usable 5 28 41 20

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Institutions Table I. Summary of key data collection statistics A B C D

drawn from Byrne and Flood (2005), the Quality Assurance Agency benchmarks, and relevant academic literature (Nguyen et al., 2005; Buchanan et al., 2007; Raybould and Wilkins, 2005; and Baruch and Leeming, 1996). Section Three asked respondents to indicate the level of their expectations from certain aspects of their study (5 – very important, 4 – important, 3 – neither, 2 – unimportant, 1 – very unimportant). The aspects evaluated were in the areas of curriculum design, learning, teaching and assessment, personal development and programme outcomes. Section Four gathered general information on respondents including their age, programme and mode of study as well as their nationality and employment status if any. The collection of data took place during the first few weeks of respondents’ enrolment for the academic year of 2009-2010. Initially, e-mail was used as the primary means of questionnaire distribution. However, the response rate was too low (10 per cent from Institution A as shown in Table I) for the study to be sustained and the researcher subsequently arranged with the programme leaders and marketing tutors of the four universities involved to administer the questionnaire in their classes. In doing so, the objectives of the study were explained face to face to respondents and any questions were answered. Respondents were also reassured of the ethical issues surrounding the study and advised that they did not have to participate if they were not happy to. Respondents were asked to return the questionnaire at the end of their class. In this way, the researcher managed to achieve a high response rate as shown in Table I and a relatively accurate picture of who the postgraduate students are today. In total, 145 were distributed and 95 were returned representing an overall response rate of 66 per cent (96 per cent from Institutions B-D) which is deemed high given the very low return rate via e-mail from Institution A. Among the returned questionnaires, 94 were deemed as valid and usable. The questionnaires were analysed using the following statistical tools: StatsDirect to report the mean, range, standard deviation and ranking of the variables and scales; factor analysis to combine students’ pre-entry characteristics into a smaller number of principal factors and to evaluate the structure and convergent validity of the questionnaire used in relation to the size of the factor loadings (i.e. correlations between individual items and their underlying factor); and Cronbach’s alpha coefficient to examine the internal consistency of the variables composing each scale in order to assess the reliability of the scales. In conducting a survey of this nature, a number of limitations are inevitable. First, the study uses a single-quantitative method. While the method provides a quantifiable and objective view of students’ opinions, it does not offer a more in-depth understanding of these opinions. Second, the study is limited to students from a set of British universities in a limited geographical area of the UK although efforts were made to select largely mainstream universities ranging from civic to post-1992 universities. Third, the sample used is relatively small although the high response rate achieved would help add validity and reliability to the study. Suggestions for future research based on these limitations are made at the end of the paper. Outcomes The characteristics of respondents presented in Table II show that 90 per cent of respondents study full time and 67 per cent are sponsored by their parents. About 62 per cent are females and the age groups of all respondents concentrate on 21-25

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Variables Age group

Sub-variables 21-25 26-30 31-35 Over 36 Male Female UK Other EU China/Hong Kong/Taiwan Other Asia All others Parents Employers Yourself Other sources Full time Part time 0 1-3 4-6 7-10 Over 10 Full-time permanent Part-time permanent Full-time temporary Part-time temporary N/A Product/brand management Marketing education Marketing research Sales General business and management Marketing communication Self-employed Others/not sure

Numbers 63 28 3 0 36 58 16 13 47 14 4 63 2 26 3 85 9 47 31 14 2 0 14 12 3 13 52 10 1 4 11 11 12 3 42

% 67 30 3 0 38 62 17 14 50 15 4 67 2 28 3 90 10 50 33 15 2 0 15 13 3 14 55 11 1 4 12 12 13 3 45


Gender Nationality

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Study financed by

Mode of study Work experience in marketing (year)

Current employment

Anticipated marketing area of employment

Table II. General information of respondents

(67 per cent) and 26-30 (30 per cent). Their nationality mix is diverse with international students accounting for 83 per cent of the total. Although studying marketing at postgraduate level, half of the respondents have no practical work experience contrary to the suggestion of Ardley (2006) that postgraduate and mature students often have a reservoir of relevant experience that can be shared with other students and tutors and the idea of reflective practice would seem particularly pertinent to these students. A total of 45 per cent of respondents are employed to varying extent echoing the findings that more full-time students are working (Byrne and Flood, 2005). However, the results seem to contract the view of McInnis (2003) that students increasingly expect their university to fit around their lives rather than vice versa as the respondents indicated that they are prepared to make their study a priority.

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Motives, preparedness and expectations The study sets out to determine the variations in the motives, expectations and preparedness of postgraduate marketing students in British universities. A total of 67 variables were used in the questionnaire survey and the mean differences, standard deviations and ranking orders of the data collected were examined using StatsDirect. In accordance with the research questions, the variables were then organised into three themes: students’ motives, preparedness and expectations. The mean differences and rankings of these themes are shown in Table III and the major outcomes from them are discussed afterwards. The self-reported scores of respondents with regard to their motives for postgraduate marketing education are grouped into clusters of intrinsic (Questions 2-5), extrinsic (Questions 7-11) and career-related factors (Questions 12-17). It is clear that, with a respective mean of 4.14 and 3.94, intrinsic goals and career-related aspirations were the main motives for the choice of postgraduate studies. Most respondents appeared to think that they would have access to better employment with a postgraduate qualification. Interestingly, however, there is evidence to suggest that some international students chose to study at postgraduate level because they wanted to spend more time in the UK (Question 20). The level of students’ preparedness for postgraduate studies are grouped into four clusters (Table III) namely marketing knowledge (Questions 22-24), marketing-related skills (Questions 26-33), study support skills (Questions 34-41), and personal attributes (Questions 42-48). An analysis of the clusters reveals a relatively higher level of preparedness in respondents’ personal attributes (3.58) such as self-motivation, cultural sensitivity, and inquisitiveness followed by study support skills (3.56), marketing-related skills (3.52) and marketing knowledge and concepts (3.38). It is worth noting that the mean score for all items measured is lower than 4, which indicates a relatively low level of preparedness perceived by respondents. The last outcome presented in Table III is to do with students’ expectations of postgraduate marketing education. Partly underpinned by the ongoing debate on the role and purpose of marketing education discussed earlier in the paper, the questions put to respondents can be broadly divided into learning, teaching and assessment (Questions 54-56), learning resources and support (Questions 57-62), and practitioner-related expectations (Questions 50-53). The results suggest that respondents had high expectations of all areas measured. In particular, they recognised the importance of practical experience (4.01) and expected strong learning support and good resources (4.03).
Themes Motives Preparedness Clusters Intrinsic Career related Extrinsic Personal attributes Support skills Marketing-related skills Marketing knowledge Changes in LTA from u/g Learning support/resources Practical experience In questions 2-5 12-17 7-11 42-48 34-41 26-33 22-24 54-56 57-62 50-53 Mean 4.14 3.94 2.52 3.58 3.56 3.52 3.38 4.14 4.03 4.01 Rank 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3

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Table III. Mean differences and rankings of the principal variable groups

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However, the recognition of practical experience did not come as forcefully as that found in the postgraduate marketing alumni (Liu, 2010). This may be attributed to the fact that respondents who have not worked in marketing may not fully appreciate what are required of them in business life. As discussed earlier, there are differences between home and international students in terms of culture, previous educational experience, learning styles, and transition from undergraduate to postgraduate education. Thus, a further analysis was carried out to explore any variations in the level of preparedness between these two groups. The results indicate that international students generally felt less prepared than their British counterparts did. The differences are many as shown in Table IV but more notably international students were found to be less prepared in the areas of critical thinking abilities (Question 27), oral presentation (Question 30), writing of business report (Question 32), dissertation completion (Question 33), interaction with lecturers (Question 35), passing examinations (Question 39), writing an academic paper (Question 40), research and data-handling skills (Question 41), and group effectiveness (Question 44). When the mean scores of the two groups were compared, international students were found to be particularly under prepared than their British counterparts in oral presentation (3.43 vs 4.55), business report writing (3.24 vs 4.35) and competing the dissertation (4.10 vs 3.20). Factor and internal consistency analysis of the outcomes In this study, factor analysis was used to evaluate the structure and convergent validity of the questionnaire in relation to the size of the factor loadings (i.e. correlations between individual items and their underlying factor). In addition, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was used to examine the internal consistency of the variables composing each scale. The factor loadings were based on the three themes shown in Table III and incorporated 51 of the original 67 variables. Each theme had a number of variables attached to it as shown in Tables V-VII. The factor loadings were found to be generally strong with an overwhelming majority (45/51) of the variables loading satisfactorily on their intended factor which indicates that the commonly accepted degree of convergent validity was met overall (common

Qs 27 30 32 33 35 37 39 40 41 43 44 49

Variables Critical thinking abilities Oral presentation Writing a business report Completing dissertation Interaction with lecturers Time management Passing all exams Writing an academic paper Research and data handling Cultural sensitivity Group effectiveness Flexibility

All students Mean SD 3.60 3.62 3.03 3.57 3.62 3.60 3.78 3.30 3.44 3.80 3.66 3.68 0.92 1.10 1.12 1.05 0.94 1.05 1.00 1.14 0.91 0.84 0.95 0.91

International Mean SD 3.54 3.43 3.24 3.20 3.77 3.66 3.68 3.61 3.59 3.81 3.80 3.89 0.89 1.18 1.46 1.48 1.56 1.74 1.90 2.09 2.13 2.33 2.46 2.99

UK Mean 3.95 4.55 4.35 4.10 4.37 4.25 4.30 4.35 4.28 4.25 4.10 4.35 SD 1.10 0.60 0.99 1.07 0.96 0.72 0.73 0.67 0.89 0.55 0.72 0.59

Table IV. Major mean differences in preparedness of international and home students

Item no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Factor/variable Factor 1: intrinsic factors I wanted to further develop my intellectual abilities I wished to study marketing in a more in-depth way I wanted the chance to broaden my horizons The course will prepare me well for the future The course will improve my self-belief Factor 2: extrinsic factors My parents expected me to gain a Masters degree All my friends were going to take postgraduate courses My employer required that I undertook postgraduate studies I was attracted by the marketing activities of my university Factor 3: career-related factors A British p/g qualification would look good on my CV Completing the course would enable me to get a good job Completing the course will increase my earning power The course would improve my professional status at work Completing the course would increase my chance of promotion

Factor Variance Cronbach loading (%) alpha 0.54 0.48 0.52 0.39 0.49 0.52 0.67 0.45 0.52 0.50 0.81 0.80 0.78 0.74 0.82 5.1 1.9 15.0 5.0 2.1 0.61 5.5 16.1 9.0 11.4 0.83 2.2 2.3 4.6 8.2 0.3

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Table V. Factor analysis of students’ motives for postgraduate marketing education

accepted ¼ 0.5, Petridou et al., 2007). The low factor loadings (6/51) appear to indicate that they might not have been well designed and would require further refinement. The internal consistency and reliability of the scales were examined using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. The commonly accepted lower limit for alpha is 0.7 (Nunnally and Berstein, 1994). In the case of this study, the internal consistency coefficient was found to be higher than 0.7 in seven out of the ten scales. Of the remaining three, only one factor (Factor 1) was lower than 0.6. Overall, the internal consistency is deemed good. Discussion To provide postgraduate marketing students with a rewarding educational experience and to maintain UK’s leading position in the global higher education market, marketing educators need to develop a greater understanding of their students’ pre-entry characteristics. It is within this context that this study attempts to provide an enhanced understanding of students’ motives, preparedness and expectations in relation postgraduate marketing education in the UK. The paper next discusses the outcomes of the study and suggests direction for future research. Motives Key outcomes on students’ motives reveal the following: first, students were found to be motivated to the choice of postgraduate studies primarily by a combination of intrinsic goals and career-related aspirations with the former to a greater degree than the latter. Extrinsic influences such as the external “push” factors were found to be of low significance to students, which appears to contradict the view of Mazzarol and Soutar (2002) that students, in particular international students are “pushed” to seek education by external forces such as their parents. Although occupationally oriented programmes such as marketing may have a particular problem with general education and instrumentality (Liu, 2010), students were found to have entered their programme of study by a desire for

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Item no. Factor/item 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 Factor 4: marketing knowledge Understanding of marketing theories and concepts Identification of marketing problems Application of theory to practice Understanding how marketing relates to other areas of business Factor 5: marketing-related skills Strategic thinking abilities Critical thinking abilities Use of typical marketing education techniques such as case studies Oral presentation Use of academic journal articles as important learning resources Writing a business report Factor 6: support skills Studying independently without much direction from a tutor Interaction with lecturers and fellow students in class Competence in effective reading Time management Information technology Passing all exams at first attempt Writing an academic paper Research and data-handling skills Factor 7: personal attributes Creativity Cultural sensitivity and awareness Group effectiveness (interpersonal teamwork) Influencing skills (leadership and management) Self-motivation and control An inquisitive mind Flexibility

Factor Variance Cronbach loading (%) alpha 0.85 0.82 0.77 0.84 0.80 0.79 0.75 0.81 0.77 0.78 0.77 0.81 0.77 0.78 0.79 0.79 0.78 0.78 0.79 0.85 0.81 0.83 0.82 0.85 0.84 0.83 3.0 7.7 0.5 5.3 0.81 1.9 6.0 0.04 4.1 2.9 3.4 0.81 0.3 3.6 2.5 2.0 1.8 2.9 2.6 2.1 0.85 0.6 4.4 1.9 2.9 0.8 1.7 2.1


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Table VI. Factor analysis of students’ preparedness for postgraduate marketing education

greater depth of learning and the achievement of other intrinsic objectives. Therefore, it is not simply an either intrinsic or instrumental motivation but rather a combination of both that motivated students’ choice of a postgraduate marketing degree. Second, there is not enough evidence in this study to support the view of Centeno et al. (2008, p. 562) that students have a short-term focus as they do not appear to consider their programmes in terms of contribution to and preparation for a professional career, rather “they are internally focussed on the programme of study rather than seeing a bigger, true picture”. A majority of students were found to see their postgraduate education as a beginning in an educational process rather than an end in itself. Lastly and interestingly, there is evidence to suggest that some international students chose to study at postgraduate level because they wanted to spend more time in the UK. Preparedness The results on students’ preparedness indicate that students had a relatively low perception of their preparedness. In particular, they felt under prepared with

Item no. 40 41 42 43
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Factor/item Factor 8: practical experience A balanced curriculum between marketing theory and practice Practical experience through fieldwork/ placement To be trained as a marketing practitioner Factor 9: changes in LTA from u/g The learning methods to be different from those of undergraduate studies The teaching methods to be different from those of undergraduate studies The assessment methods to be different from those of undergraduate studies Factor 10: learning support/resources Knowledge, support and empathy of lecturers Core textbooks are available from the library Core textbooks are available online Attractive and stimulating course content Clear assessment criteria and grading methods Clear and concise lecture handouts

Factor loading 0.87 0.37 0.41 0.60 0.40 0.62 0.77 0.75 0.72 0.76 0.81 0.78

Variance (%) 18.0 31.1 27.8

Cronbach alpha 0.70

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0.65 4.0 24.4 2.7 0.80 2.9 4.7 7.8 3.3 1.0 1.8 Table VII. Factor analysis of students’ expectations for postgraduate marketing education

44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51

marketing-related knowledge and skills. What is also notable was the lack of practical marketing experience, which contradicts the view that postgraduate students often have a reservoir of relevant experience that can be shared with other students and tutors (Ardley, 2006). The results on the preparedness of international students are consistent with previous findings on the differences between home and international students and the argument that international students are in need of more support (Turner, 2006; Liu, 2009; Hall and Sung, 2009). Given that the under preparedness was found to be in some of the major assessment and teaching conventions used in postgraduate marketing education in the UK, there is a clear need for marketing educators to assist international students with their transition to the British education environment. Expectations The results on students’ expectations reveal that students had high expectations of all areas measured in the study. They expected a balanced curriculum between theory and practice and the application of marketing concepts under realistic conditions such as fieldwork or placement. This concurs with previous findings that students have a relatively instrumental view of education focussing on the combination of skills and practical knowledge that enable them to do the job (Stringfellow et al., 2006). In addition, the results support the view that internationally mobile students tend to appreciate not only an international diversity of the core functions of higher education but intensive guidance, advice and various kinds of administrative support (Teichler and Kehm, 1995), and echo the call for more support (Centeno et al., 2008) and better value for money from international students (Universities UK, 2010).

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Suggestions for future research In an attempt to summarise some of the issues that have surfaced during the study but not been addressed, the study suggests two themes that deserve attention in further research: first, students from different world regions could differ widely in their perceptions. There is little doubt that their perceptions can be influenced by their respective cultural and educational background. Further research could be undertaken to study the impact of these influences on their pre-entry characteristics. Second, further research can examine the ways in which students draw on their prior-learning experience to make sense of their learning process. Third, the study uses a single quantitative method in data collection. Future research could investigate students’ perceptions in more depth using a qualitative or quantified-qualitative approach that incorporates quantitative method in qualitative research (Carson et al., 2001). Conclusion and practical implications This study offers a timely measure of the motives, preparedness and expectations of today’s postgraduate marketing students in the UK. It shows that marketing educators today face a culturally diverse international student body who generally feel under prepared for postgraduate marketing study. Unlike the “traditional”, part-time, post-experience postgraduate students, nearly half of the students surveyed were found to start postgraduate education straight after their undergraduate years with no work experience let alone practical experience in marketing. The study has identified a number of issues that may have specific implications for postgraduate marketing education in the UK. First, in addition to intrinsic goals, students are clearly driven by career aspirations. Many expect to be trained as practitioners but in reality the academic/practitioner divide is enlarged as a result of a new generation of marketing educators joining the professional without any industry experience (Cox, 2006). Second, students’ perception of their preparedness for postgraduate study is generally low with the exception of a few aspects. There is also clear evidence to suggest that international students feel less prepared than their home counterparts do. Although they have been found to be comfortable with their personal attributes relevant to postgraduate study, they seem to be less so with adapting to the learning, teaching and assessment conventions used in the UK. Many will struggle consequently. Third, the findings reflect the changing postgraduate education environment that Taylor predicted in 2002. There is a clear shift from the post-experience, part-time students to pre-experience, full-time students at postgraduate level. However, the marketing departments have been found to teach what they can rather than what is needed by students (Centeno et al., 2008). In concluding the study, three themes of practical implications emerge – those of student diversity, practical marketing experience, and students’ under preparedness. The paper next discusses what can be learned in relation to the above three themes. Recognising student diversity Postgraduate marketing education providers should recognise the changes in the student body and those in the wider postgraduate educational environment. The cultural diversity in postgraduate marketing students provides opportunities and benefits for marketing education providers but difficulties may arise if managed unsuccessfully. As such, higher education institutions should clearly recognise that the needs of international students are different not only from undergraduate students but from their

British counterparts and that effective support mechanism should be set up at institutional level to meet these needs. Addressing student under preparedness particularly that of international students Students’ preparedness indicates a clear need for marketing educators to provide the much needed support and reassurance during students’ transition between different levels of study and different systems in the case of international students. Otherwise, these students are at risk of falling behind and the difficulties association with the transition may be exacerbated. Therefore, in addition to recognising the specific needs of these students, marketing educators need to develop a deeper understanding of different learner characteristics, the culturally related issues, and the cross-cultural learning and teaching strategies through institution-instigated staff development initiatives. At the programme management level, effort could be made during induction to assess students’ initial familiarity with the British learning, teaching and assessment methods and, where needed, explain explicitly why these methods are used and how they can be developed more effectively during the programme of study. Building practical experience into the curriculum Owing to students’ lack of practical marketing experience, it is important that business schools make effort to provide students with more direct contact with industry and build more career-focussed enhancements into their curriculum to prevent the dissatisfaction students may feel when they start employment. This can be achieved through company visits, live projects, shadowing activities, or work placements that may mean the extension of a typical postgraduate marketing programme from 12 to 18 months. This more “relevant” curriculum with the desired theory and practice balance would require institutions to be more proactive and build a more active relationship with the industry and professional bodies from which they could source the practical experience and skills needed. Overall, this study suggests that a realignment of institutional policy, curriculum design and various support activities on the part of UK higher education institutions is needed in order to cope with the changing characteristics of today’s postgraduate marketing students. Some of the practical implications suggested may be contestable given the very many challenges faced by today’s postgraduate marketing education providers such as resultant workload, fear for change of academic identity and reduced government funding and staffing in the current financial climate. However, the standpoint of this study is that the institutions must pay attention to the quality and relevance of what they offer to maintain UK’s leading position in the global higher education market and to enhance students’ educational experience as well as the value of a British postgraduate marketing qualification.
References Ardley, B. (2006), “Situated learning and marketing: moving towards the rational technical thought cage”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 202-17. Baruch, Y. and Leeming, A. (1996), “Programming the MBA programme – the quest for curriculum”, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 15 No. 7, pp. 27-36. Biggs, J. (1996), “Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment”, Higher Education, Vol. 32, pp. 347-64.

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Biggs, J. (1999), Teaching International Students: Teaching for Quality Learning at University, SRHE, London. Brennan, R. (2004), “Should we worry about an ‘academic-practitioner divide’ in marketing?”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 492-500. Bridges, D. (1992), “Enterprise and liberal education”, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 91-8. British Council (2009), available at: Bruce, G. and Schoenfeld, G. (2006), “Marketers with MBAs: bridging the thinking-doing divide”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 257-82. Buchanan, F.R., Kim, K. and Basham, R. (2007), “Career orientations of business master’s students as compared to social worker students: further inquiry into the value of graduate education”, Career Development International, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 282-303. Byrne, M. and Flood, B. (2005), “A study of accounting students’ motives, expectations and preparedness for higher education”, Journal of Further & Higher Education, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 111-24. Carson, D., Gilmore, A., Perry, C. and Gronhaug, K. (2001), Qualitative Marketing Research, Sage, London. Cathcart, A., Dixon-Dawson, J. and Hall, R. (2006), “Reluctant hosts and disappointed guests? Examining expectations and enhancing experiences of cross-cultural group work on postgraduate business programmes”, The International Journal of Management Education, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 13-22. Centeno, E., Harker, M.J., Ibrahim, E.B. and Wang, L. (2008), “What is postgraduate marketing education for? Observations from the UK”, European Business Review, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 547-66. Clarke, I. III and Flaherty, T.B. (2002), “Teaching internationally: matching part-time MBA instructional tools to host country student preference”, Journal of Marketing Education, Vol. 24, pp. 233-42. Clarke, P., Gray, D. and Mearman, A. (2006), “The marketing curriculum and educational aims: towards a professional education?”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 189-201. Cox, V. (2006), “Marketing education: constructing the future”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3. Crisp, A. and Carrington, M.L. (2005), The Business of Branding, ABS, Canberra, February. Dacko, S.G. (2006), “Narrowing the skills gap for marketers in the future”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 189-201. Egege, S. and Kutieleh, S. (2003), “Critical thinking: teaching foreign notions to foreign students”, International Education Journal, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 75-85. Garneau, J.P. and Brennan, R. (1999), “New relevance in the marketing curriculum: stakeholder perceptions of the effectiveness of marketing education”, Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Annual Conference, Stirling, 4-7 July. Hall, G. and Sung, T.W. (2009), “Mind the gap? A case study of the differing perceptions of international students and their lecturers on postgraduate business programmes”, The International Journal of Management Education, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 53-62. Helgensa, O., Nesset, E. and Voldsund, T. (2009), “Marketing perceptions and business performance: implications for marketing education?”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 25-47.

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HESA (2009), “Higher education student enrolments and qualifications obtained at higher education institutions in the United Kingdom for the Academic Year 2007/08”, available at: Liu, J. (2009), “From learner passive to learner active? The case of Chinese postgraduate students studying marketing in the UK”, The International Journal of Management Education, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 33-40. Liu, J. (2010), “Constructing the value of a British postgraduate qualification: perceptions of alumni from marketing programmes”, paper presented at The Academy of Marketing Conference, Coventry, July 6-8. McInnis, C. (2003), “New realities of the student experience: how should universities respond?”, paper presented at the Twenty-fifth Annual Conference of the European Association for Institutional Research, Limerick, August. Mazzarol, T. and Soutar, G.N. (2002), “Push-pull factors influencing international student destination choice”, The International Journal of Education Management, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 82-90. Moss, C. (2005), “The learning experience of Chinese students on full-time MBA programmes”, Proceedings of the International Learner Conference, The Chinese and South East Asian Learner: The Transition to UK Higher Education, Southampton Solent University, Southampton, pp. 95-101. Nguyen, D.N., Toshinari, Y. and Shigeji, M. (2005), “University education and employment in Japan: students’ perceptions on employment attributes and implications for university education”, Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 202-18. Nunnally, J. and Berstein, I. (1994), Psychometric Theory, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. Paulsen, M. and Gentry, J. (1995), “Motivation, learning strategies, and academic performance: a study of the college finance classroom”, Financial Practice and Education, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 78-90. Peters, R.S. (1970), Ethics and Education, Allen & Unwin, Oxford. Petridou, E., Spathis, C., Glaveli, N. and Liassides, C. (2007), “Bank service quality: empirical evidence from Greek and Bulgarian retail customers”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 568-85. Pfeffer, J. and Fong, C.T. (2002), “The end of business schools? Less success than meets the eye”, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 78-95. Pintrich, P. and Schunk, D. (1996), Motivation in Education: Theory, Research and Application, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prosser, M. and Trigwell, K. (1999), Understanding Learning and Teaching: The Experience in Higher Education, SRHE, London. Raybould, M. and Wilkins, H. (2005), “Over qualified and under experienced: turning graduates into hospitality managers”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 203-16. Ridley, D. (2004), “Puzzling experiences in higher education: critical moments for conversation”, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 91-107. Sliwa, M. and Grandy, G. (2006), “Real or hyper-real? Cultural experiences of international business students”, Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 8-24. Stringfellow, L., Ennis, S., Brennan, R. and Harker, M.J. (2006), “Mind the gap: the relevance of marketing education to marketing practice”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 245-56.

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Taylor, J. (2002), “Changes in teaching and learning in the period to 2005: the case of postgraduate higher education in the UK”, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 53-73. Teichler, U. and Kehm, B. (1995), “Towards a new understanding of the relationships between higher education and employment”, European Journal of Education, Vol. 30, pp. 113-32. Turner, Y. (2006), “Students from mainland China and critical thinking in postgraduate business and management degrees: teasing out the tensions of culture, style and substance”, The International Journal of Management Education, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 3-11. Universities UK (2009), “Taught postgraduate students: market trends and opportunities”, Research Report, Universities UK, London. Universities UK (2010), “One step beyoind: making the most of postgraduate education”, Review Report on Postgraduate Education, Universities UK, London. Warwick, P. (2007), “Well meant but misguided: a case study of an English for Academic Purposes programme developed to support international learners”, The International Journal of Management Education, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 3-17. About the author Jie Liu is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing with Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and teaches primarily in international marketing. Her research interests include the changing nature of postgraduate marketing education in the UK, the learning experience of international students and the use of cross-cultural learning, teaching and assessment strategies in postgraduate marketing education. Her papers have appeared in the International Journal of Management Education and other outlets including proceedings of the Academy of Marketing (UK) and Marketing Educators’ Association (USA). Jie Liu can be contacted at:

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