University of Hong Kong Featured PhD Programmes
University of Leeds Featured PhD Programmes
University of Edinburgh Featured PhD Programmes

Branding destination image: Sustaining the UK’s competitive advantage as the ultimate international education destination (Advert Reference: SF19/BL/MOS/SHAMS)

Faculty of Business and Law

About the Project

The USA is the most popular international education destination (IED)1. In 2018, Australia surpassed the UK and came second2. The UK experienced the lowest growth in recent years among the top nine most popular IEDs3. To recover from this competitive loss, the UK recently reintroduced its two-year post-study visa to attract more international students4. However, international students now have more alternative education destinations, since more degrees in mainland Europe are now taught in English2. Furthermore, many more global and regional players have been competing hard to sustain the image of their IED brands.

Stakeholders’ perceived experience usually generates the image of a brand5. However, stakeholders’ perceived brand experience exists in the stakeholders’ mind on a constant basis, between the varied extents of totally authentic or entirely non-authentic experience6, which is under-researched6,7. International students generally are highly engaged with their diverse academic and non-academic stakeholders. Teachers, student administrators, part-time employers would be the example of such academic and non-academic stakeholders of international students. However, extant research on customers’ perceptions in high stakeholder/customer-engaging brand is scarce8. These literature gaps drive the following research question:

• how international students’ engagement with their diverse stakeholders could influence the varied extent of the students’ overall perceived education experience to sustain the educational brand image?

This research will attempt to address this question by drawing on cross-disciplinary literature, such as brands with high customer-involvement and cognitive learning literature to explore the diversity of the perceived brand image, and the resource-based view theory; to explore the sustainability phenomena from international students’ perceived experience. Primary data will be collected from international students (survey) and student administrators (focus group) to analyse and understand how the UK could promote their international education brand image in a way that would be expected and accepted by international students.

This project is supervised by Dr Riad Shams and Nigel Coates.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see:

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.


Shams, S. M. R., Vrontis, D., Weber, Y. Tskouts, E. and Galati, A. (Eds.). (2019). Stakeholder engagement and sustainability. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Khojastehpour, M. and Shams, S. M. R. (2019). Addressing the complexity of stakeholder management in international ecological setting: A CSR approach. Journal of Business Research (DOI:

Christofi, M., Vrontis, D., Thrassou, A. and Shams, S. M. R. (2019). Triggering technological innovation through cross-border mergers and acquisitions: A micro-foundational perspective. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 146, 148 – 166.

Shams, S. M. R. and Solima, L. (2019). Big data management: Implications of dynamic capabilities and data incubator. Management Decision. Published online ahead of print (DOI:

Vrontis, D., El Nemar, S., Ouwaida, A. and Shams, S. M. R. (2018). The impact of social media on international student recruitment: The case of Lebanon. Journal of International Education in Business, 11 (1), 79 – 103.

Shams, S. M. R., Vrontis, D., Weber, Y. Tskouts, E. (Eds.). (2018). Business models for strategic innovation: Cross-functional perspectives. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Shams, S. M. R. and Thrassou, A. (2018). Theorisation and industry-based research project development: Bridging the industry–academia research gap. Industry and Higher Education (DOI:

Shams, S. M. R. (2017). Transnational education and total quality management: A stakeholder-centred model. Journal of Management Development, 36 (3), 376 – 389.

Shams, S. M. R. and Belyaeva, Z. (2017). Quality assurance driving factors as Antecedents of knowledge management: A stakeholder-focussed perspective in Higher Education. Journal of the Knowledge Economy. (DOI: 10.1007/s13132-017-0472-2).

Shams, S. M. R. (2017). International education management: Implications of relational perspectives and ethnographic insights to nurture international students’ academic experience. Journal of Multicultural Education, 11 (3), 206 – 223.

Shams, S. M. R. (2016). Capacity building for sustained competitive advantage: A conceptual framework. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 34 (5), 671 – 691.

Mullen, E., Alexander, J. and Coates, N. (2019). Think about what our industry stands for…: Exploring the impact of external factors on line manager perceptions of graduate employability. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 41 (5), 569-581.

Coates, N. (2016). QAA Quality Enhancement Network – Invited Speaker Post Graduate Student Engagement Event (8 March).

Coates, N. (2013). Case Study 12: PGT Student Induction, University of Northumbria. Published by QAA Scotland.

Coates, N and Dickinson, J. (2012). Meeting international postgraduate student needs: a programme based model for learning and teaching support. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49 (3), 295-308.

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to Northumbria University will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.