The influence of fairness on university student satisfaction

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Some researchers have argued that a better understanding of fairness would add to our evaluation of learning environments (Lizzio, Wilson & Hadaway, 2007) and their impact on students (Nesbit & Burton, 2006), but there have been few studies that explicitly examine perception of fairness as a driver of satisfaction with learning environments. This study examined the influence of perceptions of fairness on student satisfaction with a subject, the competence of lecturers, and the university. Students (n=396) from education, arts, management, health and science faculties in one Australian university completed a survey that measured perceptions of fairness and service quality. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify distinct factor concepts. Regression was used to explore the influence of five service quality factors (Reliable, Assurances, Responsiveness, Tangibility, Empathy), adapted from SERVQUAL (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988), and two fairness factors (Respectful Partnership, Systemic fairness), adapted from FLEQ (Lizzio et al., 2007), on student feelings of satisfaction with the subject, lecturers, and the university as a whole. The two fairness factors were found to be distinct from the service quality factors. ‘Respectful partnership’ significantly and positively influenced all the satisfaction levels and was the strongest influence on subject satisfaction.This finding is important because it shows that an understanding of fairness offers a more complete understanding of the student experience. Some aspects of the learning environment that are evidently highly valued by students, such as voice in decisions about learning and the quality of the relationship with the lecturer, may not presently be captured by instruments used to evaluate learning environments. The paper suggests that fairness dimensions be further explored, and integrated in design and evaluation of the student experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Assessment and Evaluation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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