Student satisfaction and perceptions of quality: testing the linkages for PhD students

Ming Cheng*, John Taylor, James Williams, Kang Tong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Student satisfaction and the quality of education are of compelling interest to students, academic staff, policy-makers and higher education researchers internationally. There is a widespread belief in their ‘cause and effect’ relationship. This paper tests these beliefs and explores how the level of student satisfaction is linked with the perceived quality of PhD education. Using expectancy value theory as a framework and interview data from PhD students and their supervisors, this paper suggests that satisfaction is not necessarily perceived as an indicator of quality education. Levels of student satisfaction can be influenced by students’ expectations prior to their study and their preconceived beliefs regarding the value of a PhD education. Concern is raised that an overemphasis on student satisfaction may pose a threat to the quality of PhD programmes, making it increasingly difficult for universities to retain their integrity and reducing the intellectual challenges that PhD students need to experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1166
Number of pages14
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number6
Early online date24 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Expectations
  • PhD
  • postgraduate
  • quality
  • student satisfaction
  • value


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