Student Social Identity and the University Image: A Case of Selected Public Universities in Kenya
University students identify themselves and are identified by others as members of the social community within the university. The development of social identity is a process enhanced by engagement with the various activities and components of the university. Students’ social identity plays a great role in the development of the peoples’ perceptions about a given university. The purpose of this research was to determine the role of student social identity in the formation of the university image in Kenya. The study adopted a descriptive survey research design. The population of the research was all the Chartered public universities in Kenya. Out of the thirty-one chartered public universities, six universities were sampled for the study, from which 150 fourth year students were selected. The formation of an organizational image requires a long time; therefore students in their fourth year of study were chosen as the sample of the study. The data was collected by use of questionnaires developed by the researcher. A pilot test was conducted to ascertain the validity and reliability of the questionnaire. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was used at the pilot stage for reliability test. The results of the reliability test produced overall Cronbach Alpha correlation coefficient value of 0.79 which is above the 0.7 threshold and therefore the instruments were reliable. The content validity technique was used in validating the research instruments. Primary data was analyzed using mean, standard deviation, analysis of variance and correlation. The findings of the study revealed that the relationship between internal university factors that affect development of students’ social identity and the university image was positive and statistically significant (r=0.578, p<0.05). Further, the results indicated a positive relationship between external university factors that affect development of students’ social identity and the university image (r=0.372, p<0.05). In addition, the relationship between the students views and the university image was positive and statistically significant (r=0.343, p<0.05). The regression analysis results showed that the value of R2 was 0.404 indicating that variation of 40.4% in university image can be ascribed to student social identity. Based on the findings, the study concludes that internal and external university factors affect students’ social identity development which in turn affects the university image. Consequently, students’ view of the university plays a significant role in shaping the university image. The study therefore recommends that institutions of higher education should enhance the relationships between students, staff and administration. Thus, universities should strive towards creating their own unique niche that will make them outstanding in the market. Moreover, corporate branding of the universities should be clearly communicated to the students. The study also recommends further studies on student social identity and the university image among private universities in Kenya.