The dynamics of student success in higher education first year and beyond

Whelan-Ryan, Fiona (2019) The dynamics of student success in higher education first year and beyond.


Student success is a contested concept; difficult to define and important to explore. This thesis draws from literature which shows that student success is defined from a variety of perspectives, and that definitions are often related to the priorities of specific stakeholders. In any case, there is very little research that focuses on students’ own definitions of what success in higher education (HE) means to them.
Consequently, the aim of this study is to elucidate the dynamics of student success in higher education (HE) from the perspectives of students. The underlying research objectives explore the students’ perceptions of the dynamics of success in HE and examines how transitional experiences and pragmatics of time impact on their experience. Longitudinal in nature, this interpretive study comprises specific data collection phases over the participants’ first four HE semesters in order to explore early student experiences and perceptions of their progress through the HE experience with a central focus on the concept of success.
More specifically this study evaluates personal experiences and the inter-relationships between identity, structure and agency and their individual and collective influences on students. Key themes that emerged from the study include dynamics of success, transitional and personal experiences in HE. Importantly, this study demonstrates the role of well-being in underpinning the success of the individual and the value of time in the holistic development of students.
The study challenges HEIs and policy-makers to consider a number of important issues: the part that students themselves play in fostering their own success; the rich and complex ways in which students define success and the similarities and differences between official, strategic definitions of success and those articulated by students themselves.

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