Higher Education: a once-in-a-lifetime purchase

Hsiao-Pei Yang, Dorothy Yen , John Balmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose - Drawing on infrequent purchase and university selection literature, this study aims to make theoretical contributions to the identification and comprehension of the ‘once-in-a-lifetime purchase’ (OILP) phenomenon.

Design/methodology/approach - Data derived from in-depth interviews with 34 Taiwanese and 11 Chinese students over two phases suggest that an OILP qualitatively differs from other purchases.

Findings - The principal traits of OILP are quadripartite in character: zero-repurchase intention; permanency of purchase; high social pressure; and extensive information search. The results contribute to theoretical understanding of the higher education (HE) sector as one type of OILP provider, and managerial implications are discussed specifically for HE institutions.

Practical implications - Marketing managers of HE institutions should be cognisant of the range of information collected by prospective OILP customers from a variety of different sources. Prospective students who are OILP customers perceive non-marketing information as more reliable than marketing promotional materials and will better assist them during their decision making.

Originality/value - The paper makes explicit theoretical and instrumental contributions to our identification and comprehension of the OILP phenomenon, shedding new light on studies of consumer purchase decision literature. It also extends previous understanding of HE marketing by showing that choosing an HE degree is, in fact, an OILP and, as such, requires a new way of approaching prospective students as consumers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages40
JournalQualitative Market Research
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2020


  • Consumer purchase decision making
  • Higher education
  • Infrequent purchases
  • International students
  • Once-in-a-lifetime
  • University selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Higher Education: a once-in-a-lifetime purchase'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this