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

Hsiao-Pei Yang, Dorothy Yen , John Balmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
47 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)865-890
Number of pages26
JournalQualitative Market Research
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.
This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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