THE CONCEPT OF STUDENT THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION

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THROUGHPUT TRENDS IN CANADIAN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

In the early 90s, 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). This position is supported by the findings of a study on graduate students admitted to Canadian universities in 1992 that there were problems in certain institutions and with certain disciplines regarding both graduation rates and times to completion (Crago, 2002; Berkowitz, 2003). The results of the above-mentioned Canadian cohort study further revealed that only 46 percent of the master‟s students in the humanities had graduated over a ten-year period at one of the universities in the study. The same study revealed that as much as 91 percent of the master‟s students in the life sciences graduated over the same ten-year period at another university. The trend for the doctoral level students was similar with less students graduating in the humanities and more in the sciences over the same period, and the highest graduating rate in the life sciences. The above-mentioned findings confirm the view that graduation rates differ depending on institutional and disciplinary factors.
A clear trend in the available postgraduate completion and graduation statistics is that more students are graduated in the sciences than in the liberal arts. With regard to drop-out rates among master‟s and doctoral students in Canadian universities, it was reported that “at certain universities students left without a degree after 8 semesters (four years) of studies at the master‟s level and after 18 semesters (9 years) at the doctoral level”, resulting in a situation where, in some cases, the time it took for students to leave a university were almost the same as the times to completion. The report also revealed two types of drop-outs, namely, free choice drop-outs and forced choice drop-outs, which agrees with Nerad and Miller‟s (1996) patterns of leavers – one group that decides to leave relatively early for good reasons (which may be described as belonging to the free choice category), and the other group who appears to run out of steam or money and leaves without a degree after as many as 8 or more years of studying (which may be described as belonging to the forced choice category).
According to a report of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies compiled in October 2003 and titled „The Completion of Graduate Studies in Canadian Universities‟, the need for an increased number of students to obtain postgraduate degrees stems from two major factors:
under its newly proposed federal innovation strategy, Canada requires as many as 50,000 highly qualified personnel by the year 2011 in order to increase its ranking in research and development from 14th in the world to 5th; and secondly, the Association for Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) estimates that the country would require as many as 30,000 to 40,000 new professors in its Universities by the same year. These two predictions imply that the country would have to produce as many as 80,000 to 90,000 postgraduate qualification holders by the year 2011. With this situation, the need to pay more attention to how to enroll and graduate more masters and doctoral students becomes pressing.
Edgar (2003) was of the view that attrition of PhD students at an early stage in the programmes should not be considered worrisome because some students weigh their capabilities to continue with doctoral studies early enough. On the contrary, the all-but-dissertation (ABD) situation that occurs after students have spent years on the programme to meet all other requirements except dissertation should be is problematic as this situation can be expensive to universities and affects the students future and career prospects. This ABD situation is most likely attributable to both institutional student personal factors such as inadequate supervision, wrong selection of thesis topics, funding difficulties, poor quality of dissertation (Association for Support of Graduate Students, 1993; National Research Council, 1995; Ramos, 1994; Tluczek, 1995).
Although, the impact of demographic characteristics cannot be ruled out completely, Smith (2000) opined that in Canadian Universities, most of the affected ADBs were in their mid-30s or early 40s, married with children, employed, were unable to meet their supervisors regularly due to the distance from their residences to campus, could not make maximum use of campus services, had multiple commitments and overall, were poor. The effect of all these situations was that the ADB students were highly at risk of feeling isolated and left behind (Ziolkowski, 1990). 2.6.5

THROUGHPUT TRENDS IN EUROPEAN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

Higher education institutions in Sweden engage in two sets of educational activities: teaching and research. According to the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), Swedish higher education ranks highly international in terms of funding, expansion in student enrollment, attractive disciplines and high literacy rate. Sweden devotes 1.7 percent of GDP to higher education and research, half of which goes towards research and doctoral programmes; and the number of students in higher education rose by about 50 percent over a ten-year period between 1995 and 2005. In 2010, there were 433,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and Master‟s programmes; Sweden awards a high number of doctorates (2.7 percent in relation to the size of a typical age cohort); Sweden awards a high proportion of qualifications in medicine and health sciences; and 30 percent of the Swedish population between 30 and 64 years has taken a minimum of 120 higher education credits, equivalent to two years of full-time study.
Although the statistics indicated above paints a somewhat enviable picture of the Swedish higher education, there had been policy reforms aimed at further improvement in higher education, notable among which were the 1969 and the 1998 reforms of postgraduate education. The two objectives of the 1998 reform of postgraduate education in Sweden were: increased throughput, and an increased graduation rate. Throughput of students in tertiary education is defined as the number of years from first time registration in a tertiary institution until graduation. The background to the reform was that the Swedish Government considered the throughput on postgraduate programmes as too low, as a result of the failure of the 1969 reform of postgraduate education to have full impact at all faculties. An analysis of the two objectives indicates that the objectives were achieved as both throughput in postgraduate education and the graduation rate generally increased. The results specifically indicate that:

CHAPTER ONE
1. BACKGROUND AND ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM 8
1.4 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
1.5 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
1.6 RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY OF RESEARCH
1.7 PLANNING OF THE STUDY
1.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER TWO 2. STUDENT THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION – MEANING, SIGNIFICANCE, MODELS, DETERMINING FACTORS, GLOBAL TRENDS AND POSTGRADUATE CANDIDATURE DURATIONS
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE CONCEPT OF STUDENT THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
2.3 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDENT THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
2.4 SOME USEFUL STUDENT THROUGHPUT MODELS 40
2.5 FACTORS DETERMINING THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
2.6 STUDENT THROUGHPUT TRENDS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: GLOBAL REPORTS AND INSTITUTIONAL EXPERIENCES
2.7 POSTGRADUATE CANDIDATURE DURATIONS AS A DETERMINANT OF STUDENT THROUGHPUT IN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
CHAPTER THREE 3. POSTGRADUATE STUDY DELIVERY AND THROUGHPUT TRENDS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA AND SELECTED AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES
CHAPTER FOUR 4. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 212
CHAPTER FIVE 5. DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
CHAPTER SIX 6. SUMMARY, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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