Factors Affecting Students' Decision to Choose Regional Public Universities: An Empirical Study from Vietnam

  • Received : 2021.12.15
  • Accepted : 2022.03.07
  • Published : 2022.04.30


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of several factors on students' decisions to attend a public institution in Vietnam's North Central area. The enrollment issue toward regional institutions is particularly critical in the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training reforming the university enrollment process and the complicated scenario of the Covid-19 pandemic. A total of 500 students were surveyed for research samples. Data is synthesized, validated, cleaned, and analyzed using SPSS and AMOS software using methods including reliability, EFA, CFA, and SEM. The findings suggest that the proposed independent components (individual factors, study fees, advertisement, infrastructure and facilities, local features, and lastly, training activities) have a beneficial impact on students' decision to attend a public university in the North Central region. The study also found that the graduation exam outcome had a moderating effect on the relationship between registration and students' decisions. These imply targeted solutions for regional public universities to diversify training majors, improve training quality, capitalize on local advantages, increase interaction, and promote training programs and image to be more effective in attracting students and maintaining competition in the current enrollment environment.


1. Introduction

Over the past several decades, higher education institutions have undergone a process of expansion and transformation; simultaneously, they face a range of challenges, both domestically and internationally (Chen, 2016). The university is no longer a monopolistic place to provide knowledge. Still, it now has to perform the task as an economic organization, which is to attract customers and build an image so that students have a good perception of the brand and reputation of the university. In that context, behavioral theory and marketing theory are gradually being applied by many universities to gain a competitive advantage in attracting potential customers of the field of education as learners (Temple & Shattock, 2007). Universities’ goal is not only to get the decision to choose and to use the product, that is the educational program of the universities, but also to make students satisfied with the chosen decision. Given the current conditions in Vietnam, increasing the governance in public universities is essential, as it contributes to reducing costs, growing universities’ income, providing the best service to students, and improving the quality of training (Le et al., 2020). Therefore, improving the quality of training services, attracting learners, and other marketing activities to attract and take care of students as “customers” becomes more important than ever; which public universities in the North Central region of Vietnam are not out of this trend.

Nowadays, Vietnam offers not only many types of higher educational institutions such as public, private universities, or training universities under foreign affiliate programs but also many opportunities for high school students to go to university. Public and private universities are facing fierce competition in enrollment (Le, 2020). Since 2015, when the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training has reformed the university enrollment method, universities in general and regional public universities, in particular, have had to pay more attention to the tasks of attracting students. However, practice shows that although public universities in the North Central region are gradually developing more in all aspects, the enrollment situation faces many difficulties. In the current complicated situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, enrollment is even more difficult when it is not possible to directly connect with students in high schools in the local area and the surrounding area. Stemming from the difficult situation in the enrollment of public universities in the North Central region, this study was conducted to assess the factors affecting students’ decision to choose public universities in the North Central region, thereby proposing solutions to attract candidates to choose these universities in the near future.

2. Literature Review and Hypotheses

2.1. Related Theories

Theories of motivation: consider motivation to be the product of internal impulses towards the satisfaction of individual needs, thereby understanding the motivation of an individual’s behavior such as choosing a university, it is necessary to find out what is the source of inner impulses (Maslow, 1943; Herzberg et al., 1959; McClelland, 1961; Vroom, 1964; Schneider & Alderfer, 1973).

Theories of behavior: Theories of rational behavior, planned behavior, and self-determined behavior predict an individual’s intention to engage in a behavior at a particular time and place (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1967; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ajzen, 1991). University choice intentions and behavior stem from the belief that choosing a particular university will lead to a specific achievement in knowledge, qualifications, and employment.

Theories of marketing: Based on the theory of service marketing, the university still basically carries the characteristics of a non-profit organization with many diverse and complex customers. Accurately identifying the subjects that need to be served is an important issue so that universities can come up with the best response solutions, thereby ensuring sustainable development (Kotler, 2002; Le, 2014).

2.2. Determinants of Students’ Decision

According to Kotler and Fox (1985), universities are influenced by many groups known as stakeholders. They can be classified into sixteen main groups in which students’ expectations and choices are characteristic of consumer behavior in service delivery, especially higher education services. Understanding students’ reasons for choosing a course and a university is critical to developing an organizational position (Maringe, 2006).

Choosing a university is defined as a complex, multistage process. An individual develops aspirations to continue formal education after high school, followed by a decision to attend a particular university (Hossler et al., 1989). According to Hossler and Gallagher (1987), the process of choosing a university of learners can be divided into three stages, namely: orientation, searching, and selecting. The decision to choose a university in this research is synonymous with the third stage in the university selection process, which means the enrollment decision such as registration and application after admission announcement.

There have been many studies of authors on the choice of university. Chapman (1981) proposed a general research model showing that there are two main groups of factors that greatly influence the decision to choose a university: (1) individual characteristics including socioeconomic conditions, academic aspirations, aptitudes, learning outcomes; (2) influential external factors including influential individuals (such as friends, students’ parents, and school teachers), fixed characteristics of the university (such as cost, location, training program) and university communication efforts (information provided, campus tour, admissions program). Ming (2010) further confirmed that the decision of students is influenced by “fixed” factors of the university including location, educational program, reputation, infrastructure, tuition, financial aid, employment opportunities, and “communication” factors, including advertising, admissions representatives, exchanges with high schools, campus tours. The study of v identified factors of knowledge and awareness, personality recommendation, cost issues, environment, geographic proximity, and social link that affect the decision of Vietnamese students to choose a course at a university.

However, the decision to choose a university in a local area is also influenced by local factors (Le & Khuc, 2000). Most of the current research in Vietnam hasn’t mentioned students’ consideration of geographical location in selecting a university. The geographical location of an organization is the place where its’ tangible assets yield higher value in case its location is placed not only near the central areas of the city, province, or district but also in the area where transportation has been developed (Le, 2020). According to Le (2015), students’ decision to choose a local university depends on 6 groups of factors, of which 7 factors have a positive impact are location and service delivery, technical facilities and systems for learning, people in service delivery, reputation, and quality of programs/services; price of service supply, Influential individuals, Personal capacity. This study emphasizes the advantage of local location, which is considered favorable, and the low cost of study (including tuition and living expenses) in motivating students to choose a university in the province. Some high schools take students on college tours or participate in career counseling sessions from local universities. Most students in a locality with a university can know some information about that one or can have a chance to visit the university in their province. This is a distinct advantage of regional universities that the others in big cities can hardly have (Le, 2014).

2.3. Hypotheses

From a customer behavior point of view, a customer’s decision to choose and use a product can be changed over time and affected by environmental conditions and circumstances at different times. In higher education services, each stage of education development will also have different changes in the behavior of learners because the process, method, and characteristics of service delivery at each stage are not fixed but always changing (Shamsudin et al., 2018).

This study was conducted to solve the problems posed in the current enrollment period in Vietnam, which is to examine the university selection process from the registration process to the decision process to consider if the dynamics of factors in different periods are different, thereby contributing to building a theoretical basis suitable to the current actual enrollment conditions in Vietnam. On the other hand, this study focuses on public universities in the North Central region, which have specific characteristics and conditions in terms of geography, mechanisms, and policies on enrollment and training, which are different from those of universities concentrated in major economic and educational centers. From there, the research model is adjusted and proposed as follows (Figure 1).

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_f0001.png 이미지

Figure 1: Research Model

Research hypotheses are as followed:

H1: Individual factors positively influence students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H2: Training activities positively influence students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H3: Infrastructure and facility positively influence students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H4: Study costs positively influence students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H5: Advertisement positively influences students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H6: Local elements positively influence students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H7: Registration positively influences students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H8: Graduation exam result regulates the relationship between the student’s registration and their decision to choose a public university in the North Central region.

H9: There is a difference in the decision to choose a university between groups of students according to gender, family income level, and different majors.

3. Research Methods

3.1. Orientation of the Study

The subject of the study is the factors affecting students’ decision to choose a public university in the North Central of Vietnam. The research process consists of 2 phases: (1) preliminary research and (2) formal research. Preliminary research is carried out through a qualitative method by the technique of in-depth interviews with a number of university stakeholders who are administrators or experts in the fields of education and marketing. The results help the author find out more problems and discoveries to re-adjust the questions before deploying the official quantitative research. Formal research is carried out by a quantitative method with a survey questionnaire conducted based on the sampling survey of 500 students in 8 public universities, which were located in the North Central region of Vietnam.

3.2. Sampling Technique

According to Hoang and Chu (2008), for determining the sample size for exploratory factor analysis, usually, the number of observations must be at least 5 times the number of variables in the factor analysis. In this study, there are 33 observed variables, so the minimum sample size according to this method of determining sample size is 33 * 5 = 165.

The study was not conducted to the extent of universities of arts and medicine, institutes or branches of universities in other regions located in the provinces of the North Central Region (Table 1). For each university, the study carried out a survey of the number of students in proportion to the student size of each one. The study used the quota sampling technique to divide the required number of questionnaires and then continued to use the convenience sampling method to select students that the research could reach (Dinh, 2013). After collected data is coded, cleaned, and entered into SPSS 22.0 software, the study conducts a reliability test, exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling (Amos) to confirm the research hypothesis.

Table 1: Sample of Survey

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_t0001.png 이미지

3.3. Scale Development

The basic principle to build the scale is based on related theories and research. When the scales do not fully represent the measurement of the concept, this study continues to consider and put some observed variables developed by the qualitative research through in-depth interviews with experts, educators, and students into the scale. The results of the qualitative research have been adjusted and supplemented by observed variables to develop measurement concepts of local factors, registration, and graduation exam results in the model (Table 2). The 5-interval Likert scale is used in this study to measure the respondents’ views corresponding to the conceptual framework.

Table 2: Scale Development Source

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_t0002.png 이미지

4. Results and Discussion

4.1. Descriptive Statistics

For the expected 500 questionnaires to be collected, after sorting, the number of valid votes collected for analysis is 488. According to the descriptive results, the proportion of male and female students participating in the survey is relatively equal. There are 27% of students participating in the survey in the field of Economics 28.3% of students in the field of natural science and technology. The number of students in the social sciences and humanities majors is 26.3%, and the pedagogical students participating in the survey account for over 18%. The majority of students have a desire to choose a university from the 12th grade of high school, accounting for 47.7%. The majority of students have a monthly family income of less than 15 million VND. Only 40.8% of students have a monthly family income of more than 15 million VND.

Regarding the enrollment information channel, over 30% of students know and choose the university through information on the Internet and websites; 26.1% of students consider choosing a university through the recommendation of their parents or friends; The number of students getting information through teachers and brochures was almost the same, and only 17.2% of students learned about the school through admissions counselors. The number of students choosing other information that they know about the university is 4.9%.

Regarding the main influencers, the percentage of students who consulted their parents or friends was the highest, accounting for 40%. The number of students who were referred by admissions counselors or alumni was 126, equivalent to 25.8%. Only 19.9% of students were asked to get their main reference from the teachers or from the high school where they attended.

4.2. Cronbach’s Alpha Reliability

The results of testing the reliability of the scale show that almost all scales have a strong Cronbach’s Alpha coefficient in the first test. The correlation coefficient of observed variables is greater than 0.3, except for SVIEN3 and DTAO5. Therefore, the research removed the variables SVIEN3 and DTAO5 from the scale and re-test. Re-testing the reliability coefficients gives the results in Table 3. The proposed items measure the same concepts and the scales are reliable for use in the next steps.

Table 3: Results of Cronbach’s Alpha Test

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_t0004.png 이미지

4.3. Factor Analysis

After testing Cronbach’s Alpha reliability for scales, the next step is to analyze the EFA discovery factor. The results of the first KMO and Barlett’s test show that KMO = 0.875 (0.5 ≦ KMO ≦ 1); Statistics Bartlett’s Test = 4909, 629 with Sig = 0.00 < 0.05. All factor loading actors are greater than 0.5 to ensure discrimination; except for observed variables DTAO4 and DPHUONG4 (with load factor less than 0.5). The analysis carried out a second re-test after removing the variables DTAO4 and DPHUONG4 from the scale, the results are KMO = 0.871, so factor analysis is appropriate. Sig. (Bartlett’s Test) = 0.000 (sig. < 0.05) shows that the observed variables are correlated with each other in the population. Extraction Sums of Squared Loadings (Cumulative %) = 57.92% (> 50 %). This proves that 57.92% of the variation of the data is explained by 9 factors. The factor rotation matrix table in the second test has the loading coefficients of all observed variables greater than 0.5, so these observed variables have significant contributions to the model (Hair et al., 2009).

The results of confirmatory factor analysis show that Chi-squared / df = 1, 048 (df < 3); TLI = 0.9996 and CFI = 0.996 (> 0.9); GFI = 0.941 (> 0.8) and RMSEA = 0.011 (< 0.08), PCLOSE = 1, 000 (> 0.05). Model Fit indicators are all in good range. Therefore, it can be concluded that the model is compatible with the actual data.

4.4. Structural Equation Modeling - SEM

The SEM result indicated that Hypotheses are accepted (p–value < 0.05) (Table 4). It means that all proposed independent factors have a positive relationship with registration, and registration has a positive relationship with the decision (Figure 2).

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_f0002.png 이미지

Figure 2: Result of Structural Equation Modeling

Table 4: Results of the Testing Relationship Between Factor at Final SEM

OTGHEU_2022_v9n4_143_t0005.png 이미지

The results of hypothesis testing also show that the order of impact of the independent variable on the dependent variable is: individual factors, study costs, advertisement, infrastructure and facilities, local elements, and finally, training activities.

Assess the regulatory relationship by Bootstrapping technique via PROCESS 3.5 macro on SPSS software. The variable Int_1 has a p-value of the t-test equal to 0.021 < 0.05, so the variable graduation exam result has a role in regulating the impact relationship from registration to the decision. The regression coefficient of Int_1 is equal to 0.154 > 0, thus, increasing exam results will make aspiration stronger influence on the decision to choose a university.

4.5. Discussion

The research results are consistent with the economic, sociological, and behavioral perspectives on rational choice in the university selection decision process and continue to confirm the role of factors belonging to students and universities on students’ decision to choose a university according to the research model (Kallio, 1995; Avery & Hoxby, 2004; Ming, 2010). This study further confirms that local elements also have a relatively important influence on students’ choice decisions. Especially from the test results, it is shown that the factor of registration is an intermediate variable that greatly influences the final choice decision of students. On the other hand, the study also pointed out the moderating role of the graduation exam score on the relationship between the registration and the final decision in the direction that the more the test scores show students’ ability, the more students tend to increase choice decision. This is consistent with the practice of university enrollment in Vietnam when the registration factor only becomes an official decision after the graduation exam results are available. This is also a new point of the research, contributing to building a theoretical model and assessing the practice of students’ university selection process in Vietnam.

5. Conclusion

The study achieved its major goal of determining the elements that influence the decision to attend a private university in the North Central of Vietnam under the new situation, as well as the extent to which intermediary factors such as registration and graduation exam results play a role. Furthermore, research continues to support the importance of both internal and external factors in kids’ school selection decisions. These imply solutions that diversify training majors in accordance with local development patterns, generate identity and differentiation, relate the training to post-graduation employment, and increase training quality. To be more effective in attracting students and assuring competition in the current enrollment conditions, public institutions must make greater efforts to make use of local advantages, increase engagement, connect, and promote training programs and brand images.

Although achieving the original objectives, the research is still limited to a case study of 8 regional universities in North Central, so the application to the whole regional universities in Vietnam will have difficulties. Secondly, the sample size is limited. Finally, the impact of macro-environmental factors has not been assessed on the students’ decisions. Therefore, further studies should expand the scope of the study to ensure a better explanation of the decision, thereby implying a more effective solution for regional private universities in the near future.


  1. Azjen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179-211.
  2. Avery, C., & Hoxby, C. M. (2004). Do and should financial aid packages affect students' college choices? In: Hoxby, C. M., (Ed.), College choices: The economics of where to go, when to go, and how to pay for it (pp. 239-302). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  3. Chapman, D. W. (1981). A model of student college choice. Journal of Higher Education, 52(5), 490-505.
  4. Chen, Y. C. (2016). The drive behind international student loyalty in higher-educational institutions: A structural equation model. Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 25(2), 315-323.
  5. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Berlin: Springer Science+Businss Media.
  6. Dinh, P. H. (2014). Economic research methods and master's thesis writing. Hanoi, Vietnam: Eastern Publishing House.
  7. Fishbein, M., & Azjen, I. (1967). A behavior theory approach to the relations between beliefs about an object and the attitude toward the object. In: Fishbein, M. (Ed.), Readings in attitude theory and measurement (pp. 389-400). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Hair, J., Balck, W., Babin, J. B., & Anderson, R. (2009). Multivariate data analysis. Hoboken, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  9. Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed). New York: John Wiley.
  10. Hoang, T., & Chu, N. M. N. (2008). Analyzing research data with SPSS. Hanoi: Hong Duc Publishing House.
  11. Hossler, D., & Gallagher, K. (1987). Studying student college choice: A three-phase model and the implications for policymakers. College and University, 62, 207-221.
  12. Hossler, D., Braxton, J., & Coopersmith, G. (1989). Understanding student college choice. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 5, 231-288.
  13. Kallio, R. E. (1995). Factors influencing the college choice decisions of graduate students. Research in Higher Education, 36(1), 109-124.
  14. Kim, J. K., & Gasman, M. (2011). In search of a "good college": Decisions and determinations behind Asian American students' college choice. Journal of College Student Development, 52(6), 706-728.
  15. Kotler, P., & Fox, K. F. A. (1985). Strategic Marketing for educational institutions. Hoboken, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  16. Kotler, P. (2002). Marketing management (14th ed). Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.
  17. Le, Q. H. (2014). Using the service marketing mix to assess the status of local universities. Journal of Economics and Forecasting, 24, 31-34.
  18. Le, Q. H. (2015). Local university higher education service marketing tools in Vietnam [Doctoral Thesis in Marketing]. National Economics University, Hanoi.
  19. Le, Q. H. (2020). Factors affecting students' decision to select private universities in Vietnam. Journal of Asian Finance, Economics, and Business, 7(4), 235-245.
  20. Le, T. M. L., & Khuc, V. Q. (2020). Factors affecting the decision to choose a university of high school students in Vietnam.
  21. Le, O. T. T., Tran, P. T. T., Tran, T. V., & Nguyen, C. V. (2020). Application of cost-volume-profit analysis in decision-making by Public Universities in Vietnam. Journal of Asian Finance, Economics, and Business, 7(6), 305-316.
  22. Maringe, F. (2006). University and course choice: Implications for positioning, recruitment, and marketing. International Journal of Educational Management, 20(6), 466-479.
  23. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.
  24. McClelland, D. (1961). The achieving society. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.
  25. Ming, J. S. K. (2010). Institutional factors influencing students' college choice decision in Malaysia: A conceptual framework. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 1(3), 53-58.
  26. Schneider, B., & Alderfer, C. P. (1973). Three studies of measures of need satisfaction in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 18(4), 489-505.
  27. Shamsudin, M. F., Nurana, N., Aesy, A., Hussain, H. I., & Milad Abdelnabi Salem, A. A. H. (2018). The factors university location towards student choice to Private Universities. International Journal of Engineering and Technology, 7, 97-99, (4.29).
  28. Temple, P., & Shattock, M. (2007). What does branding mean in higher education? In: Stensaker, B. & D'Andrea, V. (Eds.), Branding in higher education, exploring an emerging phenomenon: Research, policy, and practice in higher education (pp. 73-82). Europe: EAIR.
  29. Tran, T. N. M., Nguyen, T. T. H., & Do, T. L. (2018). Factors affecting learners' decision to choose a bachelor's program at Banking Academy. Journal of Banking Science & Training, 193, 65-75.
  30. Tran, V. D., & Bui, V. L. C. (2020). Factors influencing the decision of Vietnamese students to study English in the Philippines. Journal of Asian Finance, Economics, and Business, 7(11), 595-606.
  31. Tran, V. Q., & Cao, H. T. (2009). Factors affecting the decision to choose a university of high school students. Science & Technology Development Journal, 15, 87-96.
  32. Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New Jersey: Wiley.