Study tackles high drop-out rates at University
A research has found that first year students at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) are barely using the support services available to them to boost their chances of academic success.
Many of them are not attending compulsory tutorials designed to help them, the study found.
The study, published last month, surveyed 143 first-year students from the N.U.S Faculty of Education.
It found students did not use academic advice, counselling or learning support services and were not “autonomously motivated” to access them.
“Many students are not fully prepared for university life,” Education Lecturers in the faculty, Muliaga Rasela Tufue-Dolgoy, Jackie Ah Hoy and Sue’ala Kolone Collins report.
In their survey of Education students, the researchers found majority of the students said they enrolled in order to gain a higher education, get a scholarship and study abroad or to get a good job.
But only 76 per cent of them used the library, 75 per cent attended tutorials, and just 53 per cent used the learning support services, developed nearly 10 years ago to help students with their work.
Of concern to the researchers was the finding that just 43 per cent of participants used the counselling services.
These low levels of engagement may contribute to the poor graduation rate the Faculty of Education Foundation programme has, the researchers suggest.
Between 2006 and 2010, just 35.2 per cent of students graduated, dropping to an even lower 31.7 per cent between 2011 and 2015.
Across the university, drop-out rates are high.
The Faculties of Education and Science Foundation programmes have graduation rates of around 68 per cent, while the Faculty of Nursing programme sees barely half its students carry on after Foundation year.
When it comes to academic support, the survey reveals majority of students were happy with lecturers and tutors, and with the quality of teaching.
But fewer students were happy with how accessible their lecturers were outside of class, something new students need as they are transitioning from their expectations of teachers from their high school experiences.
The study surveyed how satisfied the Education students were with the University’s orientation programme, and the facilities it offers.
Nearly 80 per cent of respondents reported not feeling welcomed by the university, and just three per cent reported that they did.
Just 6 per cent reported they felt as if they belonged, and 8 per cent said they had become involved in university activities.
“Students need to have a sense of belonging as […] it has a positive impact on students’ attitudes,” the researchers state.
Another challenge appears to be students becoming oriented with the campus more physically. Just 38 per cent respondents had issues getting around.
“Many lecturers complain about students walking aimlessly around the campus without attending classes. The results, however, indicated that a number of students were still not familiar with university life half-way through the year,” the researchers state.
The researchers recommend students be taught more clearly the value of the services their university offers, to encourage them to use them more, and that N.U.S could work more with the high schools to prepare students for the switch to tertiary education.
There are programmes doing this kind of work that could be adopted in Samoa, they suggest.
They also identified that the Samoa culture might be at odds with the style of education in a university, where students are required to be self-motivated and independent, and to seek help when they need it.
But this issue was beyond the “scope” of the research, the researchers noted.