Table of Contents
Statement of the Problem
Aim of the study
Objectives of the Study
Data Presentation and Analysis
Multiple Regression Analysis
Discussion of the findings
Institutional (GSB) factors
Student (personal) factors
Limitations and Research Implications
Dissertation model providing the solution to enable timely graduation of Postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business
A PROCESS DESIGN OF TIMELY COMPLETION OF ACADEMIC PROGRAMS FOR THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS - “APPLYING REFERENTIAL PRAGMATISM”.
Boniface Japhet Banda
MBA Student: Graduate School of Business, University of Zambia
Abstract: Based on the widespread perceptions that most Postgraduate (masters’) students at the Graduate of Business (GSB) at the University of Zambia (UNZA) spend unusually long durations to complete their studies. The researcher decided to investigate these phenomena to identify factors responsible for extended completion or non-completion of Postgraduate students at Graduate School of Business. The aim of the study was to enhance timely graduation of Postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business. The study employed a mixed method study design because of its efficacy in rendering research findings credible and reliable. Data was obtained from Postgraduate students and Supervisors at the GSB. Structured survey questionnaires were administered to One hundred seventy-six (176) students and semi-unstructured personal interviews were conducted with supervisors at GSB. Quantitative data was analysed using Social Package and Social Sciences (SPSS) version 16 and qualitative data was analysed using semantical content analysis. The findings of this study indicated that they was a significant relationship between study delay, GSB factors and Supervision factors while student factors were not found to have a significant relationship with study delay at GSB. The study concludes that study delay at GSB was caused by GSB factors and Supervision factors. The study recommended that all the key players/ stakeholders involved in Postgraduate study delivery to carry out their duties well and in an efficient manner, in order to enhance timely graduation of postgraduate students at GSB and increase the graduation rate for the school.
Keywords: Study delay, Student graduation. Institutional (GSB) factors, Supervision factors, Student factors, GSB, UNZA
Programming of an academic calendar is a common problem that almost every university has to solve. Programming of an academic calendar can impact on a wide range of institutional outcomes, including student satisfaction, graduation rates and time to graduation, and university expenditures. Given the importance that scheduling can have on how students, faculty, and administrators make decisions, it becomes essential that programming of an academic calendar reflect student and institutional needs (Bowen, 2009).
The focus of this study is postgraduate throughput and for that matter postgraduate students. This is because there is a growing concern worldwide over the quality of post-graduate training, the length of time it takes postgraduate students to complete their studies, success rate of postgraduate students, and the high percentage of postgraduate students who terminate their studies. In the early nineties, for instance, several institutions in Canada expressed concern about problems with postgraduate education, especially the long time it takes students to complete their research (Holdaway, Deblois, & Winchester (1995). In the United States of America, the Council of Graduate Schools reported in 1991 that time-to-degree and the changing research environment was of great concern to many stakeholders in higher education. Similarly, Lessing & Schultze (2002) noted that attrition rates and completion rates of postgraduate students were becoming statistics of vital concern to governments, and funding agencies as they tended to rely on a performance-driven model to make informed judgments about higher degree research.
Sayed, Kruss & Badat (1998) indicated that only 10 percent of masters’ students completed their dissertations in three years at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, in 1998. These concerns point to a common phenomenon; that is, postgraduate students in both advanced and developing countries are experiencing problems which either delay their studies and prevent them from completing on time, or make them abandon their studies.
In view of the above realizations and similar trends across the world, studies on postgraduate durations and concerns about shortening the time taken to complete postgraduate studies have become of utmost interest not only to managers of higher education institutions but also to governments, funders of postgraduate studies and other stakeholders in higher education (Amhoe, 2013).
Some scholars in educational research (Hockey, 1994; Fraser & Mathews, 1999; Delamont, S., Atkinson, P., & Parry, O. (2000); Lessing & Schultze, 2001; Mouton, 2001; Grant, 2002) believe that problems of low completion rates and inability of postgraduate research students to complete their studies on time are mainly due to poor supervision and they can therefore be solved by improving upon supervision offered to students and the student-supervisor relationship. Although the emphasis here is on the role of the supervisor, the significance of the student’s role in the relationship towards achieving timely completions has also been recognized as a significant factor. Manathunga (2005), for instance, explored how experienced supervisors detect and deal with early warning signs which point to problems likely to be encountered by research students in order to improve postgraduate study completion rates. Her study also investigated the reasons why some students do not discuss their difficulties directly with their supervisors. The study further proposed that supervisors would be able to improve timely completions if they are aware of these reasons and if they could adopt a number of strategies to support students’ learning.
Studies that support the view that institutional inadequacies are responsible for slow completions and non-completions rather than student-centred factors also support attempts that focus on enhancing the supervisory process, postgraduate supervisor development efforts, enhancing supervisors' understanding of their responsibilities in order to improve upon their relationships with students and co-supervisors (Dillon and Mallot, 1981; Helm, 1989; Binns and Porter, 1989; Deist, 1990; Hockey, 1994; Rademeyer, 1994;Van Schalkwyk, 1994; Johnston, 1996; Pearson, 1996; Nerad and Miller, 1997; Fraser and Mathews, 1999; Albertyn, Kapp and Bitzer, 2008; Lee, 2009). Hockey (1996) was concerned that the training of supervisors at postgraduate level is a “crucial factor” in students’ successful completion of a PhD programme. Likewise, Moses (1984) attributed the delay in completing the degree to poor supervision, and Lussier (1995) to lack of adequate mentoring. What these studies have in common is that their investigations were based on student perceptions and they all stressed the role of supervisors as an important factor in improving postgraduate education.
Contrary to the above position is another school of thought that believes that the problems of slow completion and non-completion are student-centred rather than deficient institutional arrangements including poor supervision. Mouton (2007), argued in this regard that too much attention was being given to managerial and administrative solutions to throughput problems in South African higher education instead of tackling the challenges posed by academically under-prepared postgraduate students. This implies that problems of low throughput may also result from poor academic preparation at the Bachelors level. Similarly, Ibarra (in Lovitts, 2001) in his comments on completion rates among ethnic minorities in the U.S. indicated that policies adopted to address the non-completion problem were based on the assumption that the problem lies within the student and not the system. In an article titled “selective admissions myth” (cited in Lovitts, 2001), Bekins stated that strict admission procedures identify the most able students and that those who fail to complete their studies do so as a matter of choice. This implies that if the most qualified students are selected into a programme, they should be able to complete their programmes successfully irrespective of prevailing institutional arrangements and inadequacies including supervision.
Lovitts (2001) however cautions against the student-centred view and advised universities not to consider tightening of selection procedures as a way of reacting to increasing non-completion rates and lengthy time-to-degree. By doing so, attention would rather be focused on student-centred issues rather than on institutional structures and research cultures. According to Manathunga (2002), it is not advisable to recommend changes in student cohorts and characteristics as an approach to achieving timely completion rates.
Other studies support the view that a balanced approach must be adopted in addressing students’ inability to complete their studies and research on time. Findings of the 1987 OECD Report cited by Manathunga (2005) and Lessing & Schulze (2002), point to both student-centred factors and institutional factors including research culture and quality of supervision. Lessing & Schulze (ibid) compared the views of both students and supervisors on postgraduate supervisory processes in the Faculty of Education at the University of South Africa and came to the conclusion that whereas supervisors on one hand found some aspects of the supervision process rewarding and desired the recruitment of higher potential students who would deliver better work, students on the other hand, indicated issues related to the planning of the research, research methodology, contact with supervisors, feedback, response time and examination feedback as some of their unmet needs. Likewise, in a study by Lessing & Lessing (2004) on supervision of research for dissertations and theses involving academics from both local and international universities, it became known that while students needed much support and training in scientific formulation and writing, there was also a definite need for newer academic staff to be schooled in research supervision. This revelation gives a clear indication that the problems of non-completion and slow completion are neither completely student-centred nor due to institutional deficiencies alone. It ought to be looked at from both angles and on a case-by-case basis.
Statement of the Problem
The Graduate School of Business has been facing issues to do with the programming of academic activities and study delay of postgraduate students. The majority of postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business, who are pursuing various programmes are unable to complete their master’s programme in the recommended time which is two (2) years. The majority of postgraduate students take more than two (2) years to successfully complete their studies and graduate. This is an issue needing solutions. As a result, this provides the researcher’s motivation to embark on this study, in order to identify the major factors responsible for delayed completions and non-completions among postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business and how they can be addressed to ensure they is timely graduation and high completion rates for the institution.
Aim of the study
To develop a model, that would be used to enhance timely graduation of Postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business.
Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to investigate the causes of delayed completion or non-completion among Postgraduate students at the Graduate School of Business.
This study shall be guided by the following specific objectives.
1) To explain using the theory of constraints why there is a delay in Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business.
2) To develop a Model that enhances Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business.
1) Why is there a delay in Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business?
2) What model can be used to improve Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business, in order to mitigate study delays?
This study adopted the theory of constraints. Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a management philosophy which focuses on the weakest ring(s) in the chain to improve the performance of systems (Simsit, Gunay and Vayvay 2014).
The working process of implementing TOC concepts consists of the Five Focusing Steps (5FS) which is called Process of On-Going Improvement. The steps are (Goldratt and Cox, 1984; Goldratt and Cox, 1992); (i) identify the system’s constraint, (ii) decide how to exploit the system’s constraint, (iii) subordinate everything else to the above decision, (iv) elevate the system’s constraint and (v) if in any of the previous steps a constraint is broken, go back to step One (1).
The study’s conceptual framework consists of the dependent and independent variables. The dependent variable is study delay while the independent variables are the Institution
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Figure 1: Conceptual Framework
This study adopted the mixed method design in the collection and analysis of data. The population of the study constituted postgraduate students and Lecturers/supervisors at the Graduate school of Business (GSB). Postgraduate students were sampled using Maximum variation sampling to allow the researcher administer the questionnaire. Lecturers/supervisors were sampled using criterion sampling. The supervisors were selected from the database of supervisors at the Graduate School of Business. The inclusion and exclusion criteria in selecting supervisors was based upon the following premises; Lecturers/supervisors who have been with the Graduate School of Business since its inception and secondly, the Supervisors should be Lusaka based and they should be involved in Proposal presentation and defense. All the Supervisors who satisfied the above two conditions given, were selected for participation in the research.
Students were selected from the database of students at GSB. The inclusion and exclusion criteria was based upon the following premises; students who have made a research presentation and students who have not graduated in time. The research sampled a total of 176 Postgraduate students the sample size was determined using the Yamane taro formula.
Data was collected using survey questionnaires and in-depth interviews. A survey questionnaire was administered to students via email through the student database at GSB while in-depth interviews were administered to ten (10) supervisors at the Graduate School of Business (GSB). Two types of data were analyzed and this comprised of quantitative as well as qualitative data. Quantitative data was analyzed using SPSS while qualitative data was analyzed using semantical content analysis.
Data Presentation and Analysis
This section presents the research findings in accordance with the research questions and research methodology. The purpose of this study was to identify the main factors causing Postgraduate study delay at Graduate School of Business, at the University of Zambia. The study sought to answer two research questions: Why is there a delay in Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business? And What model can be used to improve Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business, in order to mitigate study delays?
The study’s sample size was 176 Postgraduate students from the Graduate School of Business, at the University of Zambia. A total of 136 responses were received thus giving a response rate of 77%. This shows that the response rate is considered as good Dillman (2007) suggests that the response rate for a personal delivery approach varies considerably from the lower of 28 percent to the highest of 50 percent. In addition, it has sufficiently surpassed the minimum threshold sample size of 10% suggested by Gay (2005) and 30% considered acceptable by (Stanley & Gregory, 2001; Kothari, 2004). To answer the why question (why is there a delay in Postgraduate student graduation at the Graduate School of Business?), the researcher used Regression analysis.
Multiple Regression Analysis
Table 1: The Regression Model Summary
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The regression showed the relationship between the dependent variable study delay which was operationalized to a numeric variable standing for number of months now on the program, and independent variables which are, GSB factor score, Supervisor factor score and Student factor score. Table 1 above, R value is 0.380 which represents the simple correlation. It indicates a significant weak positive correlation between Study delay and GSB factor score, Supervisor factor score and Student factor score. The value indicate how the amount of variance in the dependent variable ( study delay) that is accounted for or explained by the Independent variable (GSB, Supervision and Student factors). In this case, 0.144 or 14.4% of the variation in the dependent variable (study delay) is explained by the independent variable.