The college experience and the impact on student retention
: A study in the Institute of Technology, Sligo.

  • Michael Barrett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Research on student retention and the student experience is very limited in the Irish third level sector; most of the existing research is concentrated in the university sector. Attempting to overcome this shortfall, this study examines two cohorts of students who are enrolled in technical and non-technical disciplines in an Irish institute of technology. The study uses institutional data, surveys and focus groups to build an understanding of the issues impacting on students and on student retention.The study uses translational research which draws on the sociology of access and participation to understand the mechanisms shaping student engagement, retention and success. The research builds on Bourdieu’s theory of educational inequality (1979), and a number of engagement models such Tinto’s Student Integration Model (1975) and Astin’s theory of involvement (1999) with the objective of breaking Harker’s (1984) cycle of reproduction.The outcome of the research is the Student Engagement - Partnership Triangle which identifies key factors in student engagement and their drivers, with the objective of improving student performance, motivation, achievement and retention.This model will inform institutional strategy, culture and values and operationally help the Institute develop successful widening participation initiatives with the aim of improving student outcomes and delivering equality of opportunity regardless of socio-economic status and academic background.The study finds that the students are predominantly from the lower socio-economic classes, with no tradition of higher education in their families and communities. For these students to be successful requires them to feel that they belong to the institute and are confident in their ability to succeed. The institute needs to use every opportunity to build this confidence and sense of belonging, reinforcing the students’ goals.These findings should be applicable to the Irish institute of technology sector in particular when the institute is positioned outside a large centre of population.
Date of Award9 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRajani Naidoo (Supervisor) & Ian Jamieson (Supervisor)


  • student retention
  • student experience
  • college experience

Cite this