Quality of Academic Life at the Postgraduate Stage: A Saudi Female Perspective
Vision 2030 (Saudi Arabia’s national development plan) expects women (50% of all university students) to contribute to a viable economy and ambitious nation, meaning data about their quality of academic life (QAL) during their university experience are timely and significant. They are key players in the nation’s future.
This inaugural, exploratory study addresses this under-researched topic by exploring the spiritual, cognitive, physical, social, and psychological dimensions of Saudi female graduate students’ QAL.
Data comprised the lead author’s reflections and reflexion and interviews with 17 Saudi female graduate students conveniently sampled from Imam Abdul Rahman bin Faisal University (IAU) (Eastern Province) in January 2020. A new Academic Quality of Life Schema was especially designed for this study and future research.
A Middle Eastern country’s perspective is shared about female graduate students’ QAL from a holistic perspective (spiritual, mind, and body) and through the lens of a new QAL Schema (cognitive, social, and psychological).
Spirituality was the highest rated holistic QAL dimension (76.6%) followed with body (67.4%) and mind (intellect) (58.8%). Despite a generally positive QAL evaluation (67.6%), participants (a) lamented their inability to sustain previous levels of religious devotion and practice, (b) reported health issues with deep emotions and surprise, and (c) experienced dissatisfaction with the educational aspect of their QAL. Regarding the QAL Schema, (a) their lack of research savviness hampered their ability to learn and enjoy the graduate experience; (b) psychological anxiety hampered their ability to connect with the Creator and poor time management and heavy academic workload compromised exercise and leisure with all three causing an imbalanced lifestyle; and (c) social peer camaraderie and positive classroom environments were appreciated.
Women’s colleges should (a) collect subjective data about female graduate students’ satisfaction with university services, specialization and teaching decisions, and faculty members’ and peer colleagues’ support; (b) provide and promote services related to places and means of recreation, leisure, and alone time; and (c) ensure that guidance and counseling offices develop strategies to reduce stress and anxiety factors hindering QAL.
Future studies should use larger sample frames and, for comparative purposes, previously validated empirical QAL instruments. Saudi-based QAL studies should include religion. Mixed methods research designs are recommended as is a gendered comparative study for the gender-segregated Saudi higher education context.
Deeper understandings of Saudi female graduate students’ QAL will facilitate (a) tailored institutional and faculty support leading to higher enrolment levels, (b) stronger knowledge bases and more sophisticated research skills for students and (c) improved labor force participation.
Over 1/3 of participants felt their academic gains were not as strong as anticipated, yet few commented about teaching staff or teaching methods. Future research should expand inquiries into the educational aspect of QAL as well as the underrepresented social aspect of QAL.