Come Hell or High Water: Doctoral Students’ Perceptions on Support Services and Persistence

Melanie Greene
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 10  •  2015  •  pp. 501-518
While a lack of support has been identified as a contributing factor to non-persistence in graduate studies, there is an absence of literature that matches the provision of specific types of support services with outcomes at the doctoral level. The following questions were addressed in this study: (1) What is the role of institutional support in the persistence and success of graduate students? (2) What do students feel are some of the biggest barriers to graduate student persistence? (3) What do students feel are some of the factors that have a positive influence on persistence? Qualitative methods were employed; eleven interviews were conducted with current and former students who were currently or had previously been enrolled in a doctoral degree program in the social sciences and humanities disciplines. The study was undertaken at a large comprehensive university in Atlantic Canada.
Overall findings point to the need to make transparent to doctoral students the role of institutional units and the support services they provide and the need to promote and raise awareness of these services. Five key themes emerged from this study with regards to doctoral student persistence and the role of support services: (1) the unclear role of institutional support; (2) financial considerations; (3) the culture and structure of academia; (4) individual characteristics; (5) support of others. Recommendations for policy, practice, and further research are presented.
doctoral students, student development, persistence, student services
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