Modelling outcomes of Saudi Master’s students in Australia: interactions between individual characteristics, service quality and society

2017-02-21T02:55:31Z (GMT) by Alruwaithi, Hamdi Abdulkarim H.
The number of Saudi international students has seen a dramatic increase in all Western countries since the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) was established in 2005. The success of those students is not merely their objective, but it is the also the objective of the Saudi Government and of all Australian universities with Saudi Master’s students. Therefore, the current study aims to investigate the factors affecting Saudi international Master’s students’ academic performance in Australia. In addition, the study attempts to explore and explain the interactions between Saudi students’ characteristics, integration and institutional service quality by developing and testing hypothesised models based on Astin’s (1970, 1985) theoretical Input-Environment-Output (IEO) model. The study’s main research question is What are the factors that influence the outcomes of Saudi international Master’s students? A questionnaire was administered to gain data about respondents’ backgrounds (factors obtaining prior to educational processes, called pre-entry factors); factors obtaining during the educational processes (called process factors); and educational outcomes factors (Master’s GPA, extension of completion the degree and satisfaction of Master course). Factors obtaining during the educational processes were divided into two groups: factors pertaining to students’ characteristics and factors pertaining to service quality gaps. Five hundred and two cases were collected, including 200 for the pilot study. Sequential steps were taken to establish validity and reliability of the questionnaire: stability over time, convergent validity, Principal Axis Factoring (PAF), internal consistency, and one-factor congeneric models. A Multiple Regression Analysis was used to investigate the predictive powers of pre-entry factors on process factors and educational outcomes. Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) was conducted to find the models best fitting the educational process factors to explain the variations in educational outcomes variables. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six participants to provide more explanation. In answering the research question, I found that pre-entry factors explained a third of the variation in the Master’s GPA and more than a quarter of the variation in extensions requested and in students’ satisfaction in their research abilities. However, except for English language proficiency (27%), pre-entry factors did not explain significant magnitudes of the educational process factors. The IELTS score was the most important pre-entry factor, followed by the relevance of the Master’s major to the Bachelor’s major and the Bachelor’s GPA. Combinations of students’ factors and service quality gaps explained more than half of the variance in Master’s GPA and in satisfaction regarding research abilities. Similarly, more than a third of the variation in extensions requested was explained. Support services represented by supervision services and language and skills support services were not only essential components of previous models, but also provided simple alternative models. In summary, students’ English language proficiency and study effort were the most influential factors in predicting successful academic study for Saudi international Master’s students.