PhD Students’ Background and Program Characteristics as Related to Success in Kenyan Universities

Hyrine Mueni Matheka, Ellen E.P.W.A. Jansen, Adriaan W.H.A Hofman
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 15  •  2020  •  pp. 057-074

Kenya plans to be a middle-income country by the year 2030. To achieve this development target, the country has rapidly expanded its university sub-sector in order to produce the requisite skilled professionals. This has put a strain on the available PhD holders thus heightening the pressure on universities to produce more PhD graduates to meet the required larger pool of highly qualified professionals to service the academia and other sectors of the economy. However, the PhD graduation rate per year is very low and unexplained. This study sought to explain the factors influencing PhD success rates in Kenyan universities.

This cross-sectional study set out to establish how PhD students’ background and program characteristics are related to their success. This knowledge will inform policies and strategies to enhance PhD training and success in Kenya.

Data on 1,992 PhD students was collected from 10 universities by using the Microsoft Excel data tool to collect administrative data. The researchers utilized the data collection to construct a quantitative research design. The PhD students were enrolled in the following program domains/clusters: Humanities and Social Sciences, Business and Economics, Physical and Life Sciences, Applied Sciences and Medical Sciences.

PhD success factors have been extensively studied in developed countries. This paper builds on this body of knowledge with a specific focus on developing countries like Kenya.

Students’ background characteristics (age, nationality, gender, financial support and marital statuses) were not related to PhD students’ success, however, full-time employed PhD students had better progression than their part-time colleagues. Program characteristics (program cluster and mode of study) were significantly related to students’ success. Students who had delayed for two years or more years had limited chance to graduate.

To improve the PhD education system, practitioners should endeavor to monitor and track the progress of their PhD students. To do this, the researchers recommend that the universities collect and keep good records of these types of data. Universities should come up with strategies to build on or mitigate against the factors that have been identified to influence PhD success.

The researchers recommend further research, especially in developing countries, to understand the PhD study systems and inform effective interventions.

To identify, conceptualize or mitigate against the factors which influence PhD success lead to higher success in PhD training in order to enhance knowledge to solve societal problems.

Further research is recommended especially in the context of developing countries to establish how supervisor–student interactions, availability of infrastructural resources, and students’ motivation, efficacy and well-being relate to PhD success in Kenyan universities

PhD students’ success, background characteristics, program characteristic, mode of study
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