Faktore wat die beeld van 'n Suid–Afrikaanse universiteit bepaal
Kruger, Anton Johannes
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A university never exists in isolation, and the communication of the image it projects to its target public is of crucial importance, seeing that the university is dependent on its environment for the supply of students and funds. The university is related to its environment polyvalently; on the one hand there is the already mentioned dependency relationship, and on the other hand the premium which universities place on independence (De Wet, 1984:2). There are strong indications that tertiary education institutions are in competition with each other for students and funds. In the choice of institution, students are strongly influenced by the image the specific institution projects among the members of the target public(s) in terms both of fields of study and of funding. From the literature it has emerged that twenty five factors contribute to the process of image formation of universities in overseas countries. The factors which influence the image of South African universities have not been researched yet, however. The object of this study was therefore to determine whether the same factors which are applicable to image issues in overseas universities also apply with regard to image issues in South African universities. The study was done by way of a questionnaire mailed to 250 individuals. The respondents consisted of representatives of overseas embassies in South Africa, donors, the media, the general public and prominent alumni of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. A response of forty five percent was obtained in terms of questionnaires returned. From the questionnaire it emerged that the most important factors which determine the image of universities are the following (in order of priority according to the weighted mean method): 1. Co-operation between the university and the private sector. 2. Applicability of courses and course contents. 3. The physical appearance of buildings and grounds. 4. The provision made for the physically handicapped. 5. The need for a clear mission statement. 6. The need to market expertise. 7. The importance of screening and selection of students. More than eighty percent of the respondents are convinced that students should not be admitted unconditionally. 8. Frequent reports to donors on the utilization of their contributions. 9. The importance of social involvement programmes. 10. The importance of the involvement of trustees. A factor such as academic quality would not seem to be such an important determinant of image seeing that, in terms of the weighted mean method, it only scored as the twenty third most important one from a list of thirty five. This finding would seem to be in contrast to current practice, but can probably be accounted for the way of private sector resistance to a halo effect (Fairweather, 1988:345). A further explanation might also reside in the fact that respondents accept academic quality as a given, a sine qua non, of university training, and that as such it is not then considered as a determinant of university image. Almost eighty eight percent of the respondents indicated that scholastic achievement should not be the only criterion for university admission, but that universities should also determine the potential of prospective students. Ninety five percent of the respondents felt that universities should treat their students as clients. In summary then, it would seem that strategic image management is of crucial importance for universities. The creation of a powerful image is part of the total marketing process and demands a strategic marketing audit, purposeful product improvement and the creation of symbols. All these are essential if the image which is created is communicated to all the target publics (Kotler et al, 1993: 143).