An examination of the factors that influence postgraduate students’ intention to stay in higher education

De Villiers, Adelaide (2019-12)

Thesis (MCom)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The National Development Plan (NDP) was established with the vision of uniting South Africa’s citizens, growing the economy, and building the capabilities of the state and leadership. Part of this vision is the enhancement of education and training through early childhood development, quality schooling, and higher education. Even though training, education, and innovation are not a solution to all of South Africa’s problems, these factors bolster society’s ability to develop competitively, solve problems, reduce inequality, and eliminate poverty. These efforts are currently hampered by a lack of quality education, training, and innovation. In the space of higher education, the aim is to produce more postgraduates each year. The skills of educated professionals are in high demand in South Africa, as they allow organisations to gain a competitive advantage and engender knowledge that is responsive to a range of societal desires. A well-educated workforce with postgraduate qualifications also plays an important role in the national system, as these graduates have the knowledge and skills that underpin global growth and expansion. Postgraduate students who complete their honours or Master’s degree can experience benefits such as a higher income, personal development, increased career prospects, global opportunities, enhanced credibility, self-differentiation, professional advancement, and better work opportunities. However, South Africans are currently enjoying very few of these benefits, because the country is not delivering on its targets for postgraduates, which can be attributed to dropout or discontinuation of studies. Various studies have focused on student dropout rates at undergraduate level, with even fewer having focused on student retention at postgraduate level. Moreover, there is a gap in extant literature regarding the factors that impact postgraduate students’ decision to stay at university. The present study therefore investigated what factors impact postgraduate students’ intention to stay, i.e. complete their higher education studies (not to remain in academia as a career choice). A quantitative research approach was followed in order to find support for a structural model of postgraduates’ intention to stay, which was developed through a thorough review of the literature. Postgraduates from Stellenbosch University were invited to participate in the study, and 494 students completed the online questionnaire. The data collected were analysed using a variety of techniques, including item analysis, exploratory factor analysis, structural equation modelling, and partial least squares structural equation modelling. Support was found for five of the seven hypotheses. According to the respondents, motivation, career preparation, and academic fit have an impact on their decision to stay at university and complete their postgraduate studies. They also indicated that their level of engagement has little impact on their decision to stay, and that social support from friends, family, and significant others have no direct impact on their decision to stay. This study’s contribution lies in the examination of the primary factors that impact postgraduate students’ motivation to complete their studies, rather than dropping out. The information can be used to understand and influence student retention.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die Nasionale Ontwikkelingsplan (NOP) is geformuleer met die doel om Suid-Afrika se populasie te ontwikkel en ekonomiese groei aan te moedig. Deel van die doelwitte is die verbetering van opvoeding en opleiding deur middel van vroeë kinderontwikkeling en hoë-kwaliteit onderrig en tersiêre opleiding. Die afwesigheid van opleiding, opvoeding, en ontwikkelingsgeleenthede verhoed Suid-Afrika om mededingend te groei, probleme op te los, ongelykhede te beveg, en armoede aan te spreek. Sonder opleiding en ontwikkeling is dit baie meer uitdagend om die land se doelwitte te bereik. ‘n Toename in die lewering van nagraadse studente kan gesien word as een metode om die land se vooropgestelde doelwitte te bereik. Die vaardighede van nagraadse studente is hoog in aanvraag in Suid-Afrika. Die rede hiervoor is dat gekwalifiseerde voornemende werknemers die werksmagmet baie kennis en vaardighede betree. Organisasies met ‘n opgeleide werksmag is in ‘n beter posisie om mededingend te kompeteer. Die land sal ook bevoordeel word deur ‘n hoogs geskoolde werksmag, aangesien hierdie individue die kennis en vaardighede het wat globale groei en ontwikkeling bevorder. Nagraadse kwalifikasies bied ook voordele soos verhoogde inkomste, persoonlike ontwikkeling, globale geleenthede, verhoogde aansien, self-onderskeiding, professionele ontwikkeling, en beter werksgeleenthede. Tans geniet Suid-Afrika baie min van dié voordele, aangesien die land nie genoeg nagraadse gegradueerdes jaarliks aflewer nie. Die rede vir die tekort aan ‘n vaardige werksmag kan toegeskryf word aan die hoë getal studente wat universiteite verlaat voordat hul graadstudies of nagraadse kwalifikasies voltooi is. Die huidige studie het ten doel gehad om te bepaal watter faktore studente sal aanmoedig om hul nagraadse studies te voltooi. Volgens bestaande navorsing is faktore soos motivering, beroepsvoorbereiding, betrokkenheid, sosiale ondersteuning, en akademiese gepastheid die mees algemene rolspelers in studente se besluit om op universiteit te bly totdat hul graad voltooi is (nie hul voorneme om in die akademie te bly as ‘n loopbaankeuse nie). ‘n Kwalitatiewe navorsingsbenadering is gevolg om ondersteuning te vind vir die strukturele model vir nagraadse studente se voorneme om te bly. Die model is uit bestaande literatuur ontwikkel. Nagraadse studente van Stellenbosch Universiteit is gebruik as steekproef vir die studie. ‘n Totaal van 494 studente het die aanlyn vraelys volledig voltooi. Die data is ontleed deur middel van verskeie tegnieke, soos item-analise, verkennende faktoranalise, en strukturele vergelykingmodellering. Ondersteuning is vir vyf van die sewe hipoteses gevind. Volgens die respondente beïnvloed faktore soos motivering, beroepsvoorbereiding, en hoe goed hulle by hul akademiese keuses pas hul besluit om op universiteit te bly en hul nagraadse kwalifikasie te voltooi. Die respondente het ook aangedui dat hul vlak van betrokkenheid nie ‘n sterk invloed het nie, en dat sosiale ondersteuning van familie, vriende, en ‘n belangrike ander persoon in hul lewe geen impak het op hul besluit om te bly nie. Die doel van die navorsing was om insig te verkry aangaande die faktore wat nagraadse student beïnvloed om hul nagraadse studies te voltooi. Die resultate van die studie kan deur instansies soos universiteite en ondernemings gebruik word om student-ontwikkeling op ‘n nagraadse vlak te bevorder. Die bevindinge kan ook gebruik word om professionele ontwikkeling aan te moedig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107095
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