Purpose: Since the higher education environment has become highly competitive, the application of marketing principles to the education environment becomes increasingly evident. In order to attract new students and continue business, the institutional brand also gains on importance. Considering the scant literature on the influence of the perceptions of service quality dimensions on brand equity in general and higher education in particular, this exploratory study seeks to determine whether the SERVPERF dimensions of service quality make significant influencers of the overall brand equity of select (South African) universities, and whether the overall service quality significantly influences the overall brand equity.
Design: The authors conducted a survey among a judgmental sample of 400 students from two selected university campuses, using the SERVPERF scale. The data were analyzed with inferential statistical methods, such as multiple regression analysis, with the help of SPSS.
Findings: Tangibles and Empathy were significant and positive influencers of the students’ perception of the institutions’ overall brand equity and the overall service quality as a significant predictor of the overall brand equity. It also became evident that the overall service quality has a significant and positive influence on the overall brand equity when it comes to the students’ perceptions of the surveyed universities.
Implications: Tangibles and Empathy must be closely monitored and carefully managed, while the important role that service quality plays in the overall sense in increasing brand equity perceptions implies that – in the branding efforts of higher education institutions – management and leadership should pay particular attention to offering high levels of service quality to increase the value of their brands.
Research limitations: Only two campuses from one public higher education institution in South Africa was included in the survey, thus any generalization of the research findings must be circumspect.
Originality/value: Management and leadership of higher education institutions must know the service quality dimensions which promote the brand of the institution and manage them to promote a positive image of the institution since these are the dimensions of quality emphasized by the students.