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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.


Statement of Problem

The Department of Nursing Sciences, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus commenced its postgraduate programme in 2003/2004 academic session. Most of the students finance their study by themselves while others receive sponsorship by their employers. Available records show that out of a total number of 280 students admitted within the period of study (2004-2010) only six (2%) students have successfully completed the programme. The low completion rate is critical since the department is the only institution in the South East and South South zones of Nigeria offering opportunities for graduate nurses to pursue a post graduate programme in nursing. In addition there is increased demand for nurses with higher degree to man the existing nursing departments to meet both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (N&MCN) student teacher ratio of not more than1:10 and 1:6 for all post basic Nursing programme (Standards of Nursing-Midwifery Education and Practice in Nigeria, 2010).  The question is what are the factors militating against the successful completion of post graduate programme by students of this institution within the given time frame. This scenario is worrisome and has prompted the researcher to investigate factors responsible for delay in successful completion of this programme.


Purpose of the Study

The study is aimed at identifying perceived factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Nursing Sciences Department, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC).


Objectives of the Study

Specifically, the objectives are to:

  1. Determine personal factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Department of Nursing Sciences, UNEC.
  2. Explore the environmental factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Nursing Sciences Department, UNEC.
  3. Identify the institutional factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Nursing Sciences Department, UNEC.
  4. Determine whether there is an association between demographic factors and student’s delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme in Nursing Sciences Department, UNEC.


Significance of the Study

Findings from this study will help the students to face their course work and dissertation as a learning task.

It will also help the Nursing Sciences Department to devote more time in teaching and supervision of students research work.

Findings from this study will be useful to the Department on how to re-organize the postgraduate programme in a way that will help the postgraduate students to complete their programme within the stipulated time frame.

It will provide useful information for the development of realistic strategies to improve and stimulate the interest of postgraduate students on the completion of their postgraduate programme.

It will contribute to the existing body of knowledge and serve as reference material for future researchers on this topic


Scope of Study

The scope of the study is delimited to postgraduate students and all approved project supervisors in Department of Nursing Sciences, UNEC. It covers students admitted from 2004 to 2010 including students who have graduated and those still in school. The variables under study include- the personal, environmental, institutional and demographic factors.


Operational Definition of Terms

  1. Perceived factors responsible for delay in successful completion of postgraduate programme refers to students’ and supervisors’ opinion on factors such as personal, environmental, institutional and demographic that constitutes barriers in the completion of postgraduate programme.
  2. Personal factors refer to interest, anxiety and stress, experience and skills, financial, multiple roles, time/study leave that delays the successful completion of the programme.
  3. Multiple roles refer to marital, parental and occupational roles that delay the successful completion of the programme.
  4. Environmental factors refer to the influence of home, family and isolation that delay the successful completion of the programme. Isolation refer to insufficient interaction with other students and project supervisors
  5. Institutional factors refer to the number of courses taught by a lecturer, number of courses taken by students, relationship between supervisors/ supervisees, facilities available e.g. library, computers, classrooms, seminar room, the way courses are organized and arranged e.g. time table that delays the successful completion of the programme.
  6. Demographic factors refer to age, marital status and years of experience that delay successful completion of the programme.
  7. Successful completion of postgraduate programme refer to the students’ completion of both course work and dissertation within the stipulated time frame for completion of a MSc programme which should not exceed a period of two (2) years from the time of admission.
  8. Supervisors refer to all approved supervisors in the Department.

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