Privatizing student food and lodging services in public universities: A case study of Zhejiang Province in China
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The purpose of this case study was to investigate the models and test the effects of privatization reform of student food and lodging services in the public universities of Zhejiang Province, China. Based on Johnstone's (2002) theory of privatization, three models of privatization reform were conceptualized with the dimensions of ownership and revenue source. Three public universities--Zhejiang University, representing Model 1, private ownership with private revenue; Zhejiang University of Technology, representing Model 2, public ownership with private revenue; and Ningbo University, representing Model 3, public ownership with increasing private revenue but not a corporation--were chosen as study cases, and their privatization reforms were investigated in depth. This study also examined the effects of privatization on the productive efficiency and service quality. This study employed qualitative methods associated with quantitative methods to collect and analyze data. Relevant documents were collected to understand the background and process of the privatization reform. Thirteen officials and staff of student food and lodging services were interviewed to search for the differences among the three models and to explore participants' views and opinions of privatization reform. A questionnaire survey of 20 officers was conducted to investigate the basic situation of privatization reform and search for its models. A questionnaire survey of 300 students in the three models was conducted to evaluate the effects of privatization reform. Both descriptive and inferential statistics, such as frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviations and ANOVA, were used in data analysis. The three conceptualized models were confirmed with empirical data. Market mechanism has been introduced to provisions of student food and lodging services. Not only has the contractual relationship between the public universities and the logistic service corporations been established, but competition also has been introduced in the student service market. The privatization reform has improved the productive efficiency in the logistic service corporations, which is embodied with the greater competition, superior ownership and managerial structures within the enterprises, enhanced accountability/incentive systems, and the improved ratio of output and input per unit. Students in the three models were generally satisfied with the quality of on-campus food and lodging services. However, significant differences among the three models were found in students' opinions on the facilities and furnishings of residence and dining halls, service quality of lodging and food staff, satisfactions with the overall food and lodging services, and the price appropriateness of food service. Privatization reforms of student food and lodging services have taken place in the public universities of Zhejiang Province. Most of them can be categorized into one of the three conceptualized models. The productive efficiency and service quality of logistic service corporations have been enhanced through privatization although some significant differences have been revealed among the three models. This study suggests that a free and open on-campus student service market should be nurtured and maintained, the ownership of the logistic service corporations must be further clarified, and the government must continue providing financial assistance to the needy students in public universities.