Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyze how country image affects the dimensions of country brand equity (CBE) (i.e. awareness, image, perceived quality and loyalty) in the higher education sector, as well as the interrelationships between these dimensions. Design/methodology/approach: Quantitative research with 208 international students who were starting the academic year at a Spanish university was performed to test the hypotheses. In accordance with the characteristics of the target population, the subjects interviewed were mainly from Europe and the Americas. Findings: The results indicate that the country image affects the perceived quality and awareness of the universities in the country. Additionally, a hierarchy of effects between the dimensions of CBE was found. In particular, loyalty toward the universities of a country is positively influenced by their perceived quality, which is affected by image and awareness of these universities. For its part, the image of universities is positively influenced by the awareness attributed to them by international students. Practical implications: These results have implications for marketing activities aimed at the
internationalization of higher education institutions and, therefore, their appeal to international students.
Originality/value: The paper's findings represent an important step in the advancement of knowledge about CBE by taking as a basis a complex model that involves the different dimensions of this construct together with a relevant variable in international marketing, that is, country image.