Universities in a competitive global marketplace: A systematic review of the literature on higher education marketing

Jane Hemsley-Brown, Izhar Oplatka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

582 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this systematic review was to explore the nature of the marketing of higher education (HE) and universities in an international context. The objectives of the review were to: systematically collect, document, scrutinise and critically analyse the current research literature on supply-side higher education marketing; establish the scope of higher education marketing; identify gaps in the research literature; and make recommendations for further research in this field. Design/methodology/approach - The approach for this study entailed extensive searches of relevant business management and education databases. The intention was to ensure that, as far as possible, all literature in the field was identified - while keeping the focus on literature of greatest pertinence to the research questions. Findings - The paper finds that potential benefits of applying marketing theories and concepts that have been effective in the business world are gradually being recognised by researchers in the field of HE marketing. However, the literature on HE marketing is incoherent, even inchoate, and lacks theoretical models that reflect upon the particular context of HE and the nature of their services. Research limitations/implications - The research field of HE marketing is still at a relatively pioneer stage with much research still to be carried out both from a problem identification and strategic erspective. Originality/value - Despite the substantial literature on the marketisation of HE and consumer behaviour, scholarship to provide evidence of the marketing strategies that have been implemented by HE institutions on the supply-side remains limited, and this is relatively uncharted territory. This paper reviews the literature in the field, focusing on marketing strategies in the rapidly developing HE international market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-338
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2006


  • Higher education
  • International marketing
  • Universities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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