Volume 6 Issue 1 (2017)

Factors Influencing the Degree Progress of International PhD Students from Africa: An Exploratory Study

pp. 79-94  |  Published Online: May 2017  |  DOI: 10.22521/unibulletin.2017.61.7

Almoustapha Oumarou Soumana, Mohammad Rahim Uddin


In recent decades some countries of the Middle East have offered facilities to attract international students to pursue their higher education within their higher education institutions. The purpose of this study is to understand the difficulties faced by these students while conducting their studies abroad, and in doing so, to broaden the awareness of the challenges they face to complete their research. The participants of this qualitative study are international PhD students studying at a Middle Eastern public university. The university has reported increasing enrollment of international students, particularly from Africa in the last few years. Data were collected using a set of semi-structured interviews that drew out information on critical incidents that characterized the kind of difficulties students had faced in their studies. The data collected was further analyzed using a qualitative software package, NVivo (QSR International, 11). Six main themes came out from the content analysis of the interviews, which are the role of the adviser, student features, funding issues, family engagement, research and psychological obstacles which provide a holistic picture of student perspectives on the factors that influence degree progress. While these students might have faced difficulties mentioned in existing literature, this study argues that the participants have indicated experiencing psychological obstacles that were not described in earlier studies, such as the state of mind they were in as a result of being worried for family members due to war or violence in their home countries, and drop in currency exchange rates and difficulties in acquiring money due to international sanctions imposed against their countries. This study provides important thoughts on the factors that impact the degree progress of international PhD students from Africa, while at the same time revealing a serious gap in the advisers’ role which can contribute to the problems experience during the study progress of doctoral students.

Keywords: writing-up doctoral dissertation, PhD degree progress, study completion impediment, African countries, Nvivo


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