This paper outlines a variety of the research on student attrition and recognises some of the sensitivities that may be involved for some students in dealing with dropping out of university. This paper claims that because of these sensibilities, some student’s responses to direct questions about the reasons for attrition may be biased by social desirability. The purpose of this paper is to get beyond social desirability bias to examine a fuller range of reasons for student retention and attrition.
In an exploratory investigation, this research study uses a projective technique which helps to circumvent the conscious defences of respondents. The projective technique is based on the “thematic apperception test” and uses a “bubble drawing” to elicit emotional and more socially undesirable responses.
All first-year students appear to consider leaving university, and emotional considerations involving loneliness and homesickness are much more prominent than most quantitative studies acknowledge. For example, in this research, social concerns are twice as prominent as financial concerns, whereas in past survey research, financial concerns have been identified as most prominent.
To retain students, universities need to provide new students with real care and support, especially in their first few weeks at university. To study retention comprehensively, researchers need to go beyond the confines of positivist research.
This is the first study that uses a projective technique to investigate student retention and attrition. By going beyond a merely positivist approach to research, a fuller, deeper and more complete understanding of the wide extent and profound nature of the emotional issues involved in student attrition and retention is gained.
Boddy, C. (2020), "Lonely, homesick and struggling: undergraduate students and intention to quit university", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 239-253. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-05-2020-0056Download as .RIS
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