Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sense of belonging and student success: An analysis of student experiences in South African universities
by Williams, Theresa, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2012, 224; 3512528
Abstract (Summary)

Retention and graduation are major challenges in South African higher education institutions. These phenomena are especially troubling among Black and Colored (BC) students at both historically advantaged and historically disadvantaged institutions. The retention and graduation rates of these groups are disturbingly low compared to those of White and Indian students. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that affect the sense of belonging and success of Black and Colored students at South African universities, specifically the University of Cape Town (UCT), a historically advantaged university, and the University of the Western Cape (UWC), a historically disadvantaged university.

Recognizing the dearth of retention research and the development of theories/models in South Africa, two U.S.-based theoretical models, Hurtado and Carter's (1997) Sense of Belonging model and Rendon's (1994) Validation model, were used as the conceptual framework to analyze and interpret the findings of this study. The assumption of this study was that Black and Colored student persistence is contingent upon their sense of belonging at the institution and the relationship the students have with members of the university community, especially faculty.

This mixed-methods case study utilized both qualitative and quantitative methods concurrently, but qualitative was the primary approach. Data collection methods included interviews with students, select university administrators, and faculty members supplemented with surveying students and a review of institutional documents. Multiple sources of evidence provided validity and reliability for the research findings.

The findings revealed that the following institutional factors affect the sense of belonging and success of Black and Colored students at UCT and UWC: campus culture/climate, institutional support structures, faculty, teaching and learning. The student characteristics included: academic pressure; academic preparation; social, cultural, and language adjustment; and financial and socioeconomic challenges. In general, higher education institutions do not have control over student attributes that significantly influence persistence, but this study demonstrates that institutional factors play equally important or even more significant roles and are under the control of institutions to change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Steiner-Khamsi, Gita
Commitee: Dougherty, Kevin, Foulds, Kimberly, Williams, Portia
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: International and Transcultural Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Black studies, South African Studies, Higher education
Keywords: Black students, Persistence, Retention, Sense of belonging, South Africa, Student success
Publication Number: 3512528
ISBN: 9781267416223
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