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Title: A study of the factors affecting student retention at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia: Structural Equation Modelling and Qualitative Methods
Authors: AL-Dossary, Saeed
Supervisor(s): Osborne, Michael
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to identify factors affecting student retention at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. It has been estimated that 35% of university students leave higher education before completing their studies (Al-Saud, 2006). This study was guided by Tinto’s (1975) Student Integration Theory. Berger and Braxton (1998, p. 104) have stated that Tinto’s integration model ‘has been the focus of much empirical research and has near-paradigmatic status in the study of the college student departure.’ This theory is longitudinal and dynamic and views student retention decisions largely as the results of interactions between the student and the academic and social systems of the institution (Tinto, 1975, 1993). This study used a mixed methods approach. Using the terminology of Creswell (2003), the appropriate description of the overall design of this study is a mixed methods concurrent triangulation strategy. This means that ‘qualitative and quantitative data are collected and analyzed at the same time. Priority is usually equal and given to both forms of data. Data analysis is usually separate, and integration usually occurs at the data interpretation stage’ (Hanson et al., 2005, p. 229). This strategy was selected because it allows the findings to be confirmed, cross-validated, and corroborated within a single study (Creswell, 2003). This strategy consisted of two phases. The first phase was the quantitative approach. Quantitative data were collected from 414 freshman students using two questionnaires administered on two occasions and from the university admission office. The quantitative data were analysed using a structural equation modelling (SEM) technique using the AMOS software package. The results of the SEM indicated that Tinto’s model were not useful in predicting the Saudi freshman student retention process. The variables in the model explained only 30 percent of the variance in student retention. The results of the SEM indicated that four of the nine hypotheses proposed in Tinto’s model were supported by statistically significant results. Moreover, only three variables had direct effects on retention. The largest direct effect on retention was accounted for by initial goal and institutional commitment (0.49), followed by later goal and institutional commitment and pre-college schooling as measured by high school scores (0.10). The second phase of this study utilised a qualitative approach. Qualitative data were obtained from three sources: non-persister students, persister students, and staff members. Seventeen non-persister students were interviewed over the phone; 15 persister students were interviewed using a focus group technique; while staff members were asked to complete a survey. Of the 200 surveys distributed, 37 were returned including responses from 16 lecturers, 12 administrators, 5 librarians and 4 academic advisors. A comparison was made between those students who persisted and those who dropped out using constructs from Tinto’s theory. In relation to students’ levels of goal and institutional commitment, it was found that persister students appeared to be more motivated and to have higher levels of goal commitment than non-persister students. Similarly, persister students appeared to have higher levels of institutional commitment than non-persister students, in part it is suggested, due to the fact that the majority of persister students had been able to select their desired majors whereas the majority of non-persister students had not. In relation to the students’ levels of academic integration, there was no significant difference between both groups of students. Persister and non-persister students both exhibited low levels of academic integration into the university system. In addition, there was no significant difference between both groups of students in terms of social integration. Both groups of students indicated low levels of social integration into the university system. In addition, the participants (persister students, non-persister students, and staff members) were all asked to indicate what they perceived to be the major factors affecting student retention at King Saud University. The findings from the qualitative data not only help to explain and confirm the quantitative findings but also identify why Saudi freshman students leave the university before completing their studies. The most important factors were: difficulties of selecting majors, difficulties of transferring between subjects, lack of academic advice and irregularity of monthly reward.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Education

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