There is increased demand for nurses with higher degree to man the existing Department of Nursing to meet both the National University Commission and the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria student teacher ratio of 1:10 and 1: 6 for basic and post basic Nursing programmes. However, the completion rate required to meet these demand is low. This study was conducted to determine the perceived factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Department of Nursing Sciences, UNEC. Four objectives were formulated and the significance of the study was to provide useful information to enhance timely completion of postgraduate programme in the Department. The design was descriptive. Population consisted of all registered postgraduate students from 2003/2004-2010/2011 and approved supervisors. The instrument for data collection was the questionnaire. Data was analyzed using percentages, mean and Standard Deviation. 4 points Likert scale was also used and the decision rule was based on mean score of 2.5. Result showed that the major personal factors that contributed to delay in completion were conflicting roles competing with academic work (mean 3.15); not satisfied with the way the programme is organized and no study leave granted for the programme had the same mean of 2.91. For the supervisors, the major personal factor was that, most of the students lacked knowledge in research work (mean 3.67). The main environmental factor that contributed to delay was interference of job with academic work (mean 3.00). For the supervisors, the major environmental factors were that students combined work with their academic studies (mean 3.12) and that most of the students live and work outside Enugu (mean 2.83). The major institutional factors were that library was not adequately equipped (3.24) and too much work load for lecturers (mean 3.22). For the supervisors, they equally indicated that there was too much work load from undergraduate to postgraduate programme with a mean of 3.33. There was no association between demographic (age, marital status and years of experience) and students completion of studies. Based on the findings it was recommended that, students should see both the course work and dissertation as an entity and not separate programmes. The Departmental library should be well equipped with computers and adequate classrooms provided. The supervisor-student relationships should be built on effective communication and the supervisors should be mentors to their supervisees.
Background to the Study
Education is the bedrock of any nation because it is the training of the mind and character of an individual to ensure change of unwanted behaviour or strengthening encouraging behaviours. It is the process of helping an individual to discover, develop and make use of his inner abilities, potentials and capabilities for successful living in the society (Olubiyi, 2009). Education is the development of all those capacities in the individual which will enable him to control his environment and fulfill his potentials. Obasa, (2006) stated that, nursing education represents the foundation for nursing practice. Thus by implication, whatever the nursing care given is a reflection of the nursing education received.
The concept of postgraduate education depends upon the system of awarding degrees at different levels of study, and can be traced to the workings of European medieval universities. Postgraduate education or graduate education involves learning and studying for degrees or other qualifications for which a first or Bachelor’s degree generally is required, and is normally considered to be part of higher education. Abiddin and Ismail, (2011), stated that a postgraduate study is a growth process by which students, need to develop as scholars under the thoughtful support and guidance by the institution. Postgraduate students are matured persons, building an academic career path after their Bachelor Degree or Higher Education.
Since the 1960s, the global higher education sector has seen a steady increase in numbers of postgraduate students. The global move towards mass higher education has resulted in large increases in both student numbers and institutions offering postgraduate education (Smith, in Jiranek, 2010). In Australia, from 1991 to 2000 there was a 54% increase in higher degree research enrolments. With this expansion, changes in the delivery method of postgraduate courses along with changes in enrolment criteria have resulted in increased access to higher education for many people. In the field of health and in particular nurse education, this explosion of postgraduate education is very evident. There has been a threefold increase in PhD commencements and large increases in Masters Degree by research in health during this period (Kemp in Jiranek, 2010). According to him, completion rate of postgraduate nursing research students however is not high with completion rates being below 40% on average compared to other health postgraduate student completion rates that is greater than 50%. The gradual shift in the employment market, towards the requirement of postgraduate as well as undergraduate qualifications, places increasing importance on the issue of postgraduate attrition which has long been a problem in the postgraduate sector. With the importance attached to the completion of a postgraduate research programme, it is now high on the political agenda. This has resulted in a surge of research into factors affecting postgraduate completion (Wright & Cochrane in Jiranek, 2010).
Graduate education programmes worldwide attract professionally-based, non residential students studying part-time and the learning that takes place during postgraduate studies is a maturing process. It must be enhanced with timely and appropriate support. Support and guidance should be provided to postgraduate students without sacrificing the coherence and generic input needed in any academic programme. (Abiddin & Ismail, 2011). Part-time students struggle to cope with their simultaneous academic and professional workloads and experience lack of support and understanding from their supervisors, inflexible program organization and structures, and a feeling of isolation (Lessing & Lessing, 2004; Mackinnon, 2004). They are under increasing pressure to complete their programme within a particular time frame, and faculty on the other hand are also under similar pressure to attract and retain quality candidates who will be able to complete on time and raise the level and status of the institution’s research profile (Abiddin & Ismmail, 2011).
The submission of an original essay, commonly referred to as ‘dissertation report’ is an essential component of the requirements for the fulfillment of the award of a Masters degree. The submission of a dissertation report at the end of 18- 24 months Masters Programme is an important component of the course. Participants are required to investigate a selected problem of their choice within their field of study and discuss their experience with their supervisors in order to present a rich and informative report which contributes significantly to the existing body of knowledge in the field (Olakulehin & Ojo, 2008). In undertaking a postgraduate research program, the student commences on a pathway that initiates many relationships. Relationships the student develops include with themselves, the department, their supervisor and their peers. These relationships are central to the quality of the supervisor-student relationship and the outcomes achieved by the student (Phillips & Smith in Abididin & Ismail, 2011). They have been shown to influence both the progression and completion rates of students in their postgraduate programme. However, the choice of research area and formulation of a suitable problem are the most difficult tasks confronting postgraduate research students (Olakulehin & Ojo, 2008). Successful and timely completion of dissertation by Masters and PhD student is increasingly important for students, supervisors and the University (Jiranek, 2010).This is due to the fact that the identified problem is expected to meet three conditions- significance, originality and feasibility. In addition to these conditions, students writing dissertations are required to consider whatever problems they identify vis-à-vis individual competence and professional experience, and possible difficulties such as availability of data, financial constraints and limitations of time.
Evaluation of factors affecting completion rates of postgraduate programmes must consider all these relationships and the many factors that impact on them. Based on the data gathered by Graduate School of Studies (GSS) of one public University in Malaysia, in 2005 graduate student with thesis (research and coursework) completed their Masters averagely within 2.69 years and PhD students completed their PhD within 4.84 years averagely where as they could complete it earlier than that (Abiddin & Ismail, 2011).
In Nigeria, there are only three universities offering post graduate programme in nursing. The institutions include: University of Ibadan (1991), University of Ife (1972) and University of Nigeria, Nsukka (2003). Despite the few number of universities offering the programme, the number of students applying for admission on yearly basis is on the increase. For instance in the 2007/2008 admission of post graduate students in the Department of Nursing Sciences, University of Nigeria Enugu campus (UNEC), 57 students were admitted while in 2008/2009 session a total of 87 students were given admission. (Department of Nursing Sciences records, UNEC). From the University postgraduate programme, the duration of a master’s programme is 18 months for full time students and 24 calendar months for part-time students (UNN Postgraduate Hand book). Majority of the students finished their course work and fail to submit their research work within this period.
Numerous research studies have pointed out that there are high proportions of graduate students who fail to complete their studies within the time given (Cochrane & Park, 2005, Olakulehin & Ojo, 2008). Many factors contribute to this and the major problem is related to the information and services offered by the institution. Poor information and services affect attrition and completion rates of post graduate studies (Abiddin & Ismail, 2011). The course work and research process should run smoothly if there are adequate and excellent supports by the institution. Lots of challenges force postgraduate students to deal with issues such as family commitment, work commitment, finance etc., which may affect their achievements since most of them are working and married students (Lovitts & Malfroy, 2005). Inadequate allocation of time and lack of time management may contribute to delay in successful completion of a programme.
It is therefore pertinent to investigate empirically whether the challenges faced by postgraduate students as found in the literature are the same with postgraduate students in University of Nigeria, Enugu, Campus.