Students' Staying and Supportive Intentions at Federal Higher Education Institutions in the United Arab Emirates
ALHASSANI, AMAL ABDULLA
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In a highly competitive higher education environment where institutions aim to meet the student's needs and expectations, quality of service is a key stander for measuring the level of excellence in higher education among institutions. Furthermore, concepts such as student satisfaction, student retention, and the institution's reputation have become a strategic concern for private and public institutions as it has a strong impact on students and thus on the institution's performance and their ability to enhance the better services. The main literature gap of the thesis is to focus on university retention rates, as the majority of student dropouts happen in the first year of their study. The dropout rate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) higher education sector is high and reached 14% in 2017 in the federal institutions, as compared to a global rate of below 10%. The purpose of this research is to examine the factors influencing undergraduate students' retention from the university during their first year by studying two federal institutions in the UAE and how the institution can improve the retention procedures to keep the students till they complete their degree. Moreover, it aims to investigate the mediation impact of student satisfaction on the five antecedents of satisfaction: Perceived Service Quality of Teaching (QTS), Student Life and Support (SLS), Social Identification (SI), Organizational Identification (OI), and Institution Reputation (RE). Additionally, it aims to propose a new and clear conceptual framework to support higher education institutions (HEIs) by examining the literature and analyzing new data to find recommendations to help to increase the retention rate by identifying the factors that influence how students interact with and support their HEIs. The thesis research employs a quantitative method, as data were collected using questionnaires from 444 undergraduate students who were in their first year in two UAE federal institutions. A conceptual model was developed and tested by using SPSS and AMOS, which included an assessment of possible common method bias (CMB) and mediation analysis. To analyze the data, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) were applied where they explored the associations between the eight constructs and, then, utilized the structural equation model (SEM) to test a theoretical model described by a set of basic hypotheses, with the aim of explaining the relationship between perceived quality of the educational services, student satisfaction, student retention, institution reputation and examining the possible effects of these relationships on students’ support or intention to stay in the institution. The findings showed that student satisfaction mostly fully mediates the relationships between the five antecedents’ factors of satisfaction and both Intention to Stay and Supportive Intentions. The institution's reputation, organizational identification, and student life and support are the very strongest predictors of satisfaction among students. Organizational identification is a strong forecaster for student achievement, promise, and fulfillment levels in organizational settings. It is an effective organizational identification that is a strong forecaster of student commitment and gratification for substantiating student-level achievement. Learning is often tangled with social identification of academic level performance. Shared identity is approached as they perceive in-group members to have dissonance in university-level learning. The values in management programs are identified through satisfaction and self-esteem in broader terms. In addition, student life and support can also play a big change in the level of student satisfaction as most students are looking for the high-quality services that should be provided by institutions, especially in facilities like libraries, classrooms, laboratories, restaurants, clubs, accommodation, and so on, where they spend most of their time so the student is always looking for an enjoyable place that the university can provide parallel with an excellent education. The originality of the study emerged from the limited studies that have examined the effect of institution reputation on student satisfaction so It made an important theoretical contribution in that the findings help to articulate that reputation of the institution has not been sufficiently examined in the literature related to higher education or to the marketing of international institutions and quality services. The thesis developed a new concept by paying attention to the role of the institution’s reputation as one of the important factors for students. Furthermore, mediation analysis for the five antecedents of satisfaction on staying and supporting is a new contribution to the literature. On the other hand, the practical implications of the study provide the HEIs with insights and new information on how they can improve their strategies by rising the gap of low rate of retention and improving the level of both student satisfaction. These results will reflect positively on student education and will benefit both academics and practitioners in higher education. This study is one of the first to focus on first-year undergraduate students and how they settle into life in higher education. Furthermore, existing studies have only focused on two or three independent variables, while this study combines more independent variables, to assess how students judge a university’s services and their overall experience in HEI. Finally, retention of the students helps an institution gain a competitive advantage as it indicates the ability to make their students happy and satisfied. If the antecedents of satisfaction offered by the universities are meeting the expectations of the students, it will increase their level of satisfaction. These are steps that follow one after the other and are highly dependent on each other to operate properly. Hence, it can be said that factors such as reputation, quality, identification, and satisfaction are all interrelated and important for all higher education institutions.