South Africa has a highly regulated higher education sector consisting of public and private institutions. The distinguishing factor between these institutions is found in how they are funded and their day to day operations. The challenge for higher education institutions (HEIs) in this service sector is to attract students to these institutions by relying on their competitive advantage and market positioning. Higher education forms part of the service sector of the economy, and quality of service can therefore be a distinguishing factor. The objectives of the study are to examine the quality mechanisms used by a private institution of higher education and to determine whether compliance with an external regulatory framework supports the delivery of service quality, and to determine whether the implementation of total quality management in a private institution assists the institution in adjusting the value proposition to gain a competitive advantage. A qualitative, exploratory case study research design was used. Four managers and ten registered senior students were selected through purposeful sampling. Data was collected from various sources, including in-depth interviews and focus group discussions between June and October 2019. Data was analysed using in vivo coding and ATLAS.ti8 software. The central theme that emerged from this study confirmed that the acceptance of internal quality mechanisms and total quality management principles is essential for a private higher education institution. The three most important themes that emerged were compliance with the regulatory framework, institutional supply and quality management. It is concluded that improving the internal quality in a private institution of higher education is important as opposed to only complying with external quality control requirements.
Keywords: business driven; competitive advantage; higher education; private higher education; total quality management; value proposition