Higher education institutions are called to expand their role and responsibilities, by enhancing their entrepreneurial mindset and redefining relationships with stakeholders. In order to cope with these new challenges, they have started to operate in a strategic manner, by performing marketing and merchandising activities. Indeed, in a sector characterized by the presence of competitive funding models, several forms of accountability, and performance indicators, universities have become open systems and have started to operate like enterprises, considering students as customers. Given this premise, the aim of the paper is to individuate marketing and merchandising strategies in higher education and to evaluate their effectiveness in order to foster stakeholders engagement. This is in line with the entrepreneurial university model that represents the starting point of the theoretical study, then a literature review of “marketization” in higher education institutions is presented, showing how this field is not yet completely investigated. Data refer to the Italian context and are analyzed through a qualitative method. Findings suggest that most Italian universities perform merchandising strategies, but currently there is not sufficient information to evaluate their effectiveness in higher education, it was only possible to make hypotheses.
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