Year

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Information Systems and Technology

Abstract

Student attrition is an issue of serious concern to universities around the world. Attrition from ICT degrees is of particular concern, as is the lack of students commencing ICT degrees, which have together reduced the number of potential future ICT professionals (Cory, Parzinger & Reeves, 2006; Granger, Dick, Jacobson & Slyke, 2007; Zweben, 2008). For the purposes of this study, attrition encompasses students enrolled in an ICT degree who chose to transfer out of that degree to take up study in an unrelated area at their university or who quit their university without completing any course of study.

Tinto’s (1975) Social Integration Model has been recognised as having “near paradigmatic status” (Braxton, Milem & Sullivan, 2000) and is one of two models at the core of this study alongside Bean’s (1980) belief that students do make rational decisions about why they should quit. Although Tinto’s (1975) model has frequently been combined with the ideas of other researchers (for example: Belch, Gebel & Maas, 2001; Braunstein, McGrath & Pescatrice, 2001; Bray, Braxton & Sullivan, 1999; Ethington, 1990; Georg, 2009; Milem & Berger, 1997; Munro, 1981; Pascarella, 1980; Woodard, Allory & De Luca, 2001), it was the attempted combination of Bean’s (1980) and Tinto’s (1975, 1993) models by Cabrera, Nora & Castaneda (1993) and Weng, Cheong & Cheong (2010) which gave rise to the sociorational approach taken in the current research.

Using this comprehensive approach, this study has identified the factors in the teaching and learning environment in university ICT courses, and in students’ personal lives that contribute to attrition, and has mapped these contributory factors to strategies found in the literature, or suggested by ICT academics, or by members of the ICT industry. This has demonstrated the utility of the socio-rational approach to attrition in ICT degrees in Australia. Applying the socio-rational approach to attrition also allowed recommendations to be made about the strategies that could be implemented to halt the decline in numbers of students continuing with their study and thus prevent the negative outcomes for universities, their students and the ICT industry.

University administrators and Deans and Heads of Schools of ICT could adopt the holistic approach presented in this study to reduce the likelihood that the contributory factors that have been identified would result in attrition of their students.

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