Study demands, study resources and well-being of first year students in South African higher education institutions
Mokgele, Kelebogile Revelation Felicity
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The well-being of first-year students in higher education institutions needs particular attention as their level form the foundation for future graduates, and subsequent employees. It is an important focus area for research and intervention. First-year higher education institutions’ student drop-out rate in South Africa is said to be alarmingly high and therefore a cause for concern. An overload of tasks and related time pressure associated with studies is often a reality for first-year students. The problem is compounded when such students are academically and socially unprepared to participate in higher education. The attraction to higher education institutions is that graduates enjoy a higher status in our society as they are seen to play a particularly important role in managing the knowledge-driven economy. The significance of this status relates to the extent of the application of knowledge to the economy, a status which provides competitiveness among nations. Students need to be physically healthy, psychologically well, engaged and satisfied with their lives for their well-being, and subsequently achieve their academic goals. If appropriate and timely, support and resources provided by higher education institutions can play a positive role in the first-year student transition into higher education and thereby minimise the possibilities of student burnout and ill health, whilst increasing the experience of engagement and satisfaction with life. The study aimed to assess the relationship between demands, resources, burnout, engagement, health and satisfaction with life for first-year students at higher education institutions in South Africa and to test a model of well-being for these students. A cross-sectional survey design was used to gather data regarding the burnout, engagement, ill health, and life satisfaction experienced by students. A convenience sample (N = 936) of first-year students at three campuses of two higher education institutions participated in the study. The measuring instruments used were the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory, a biographical questionnaire (including questions about available resources), Study Demands-Resources Questionnaire, Health Questionnaire, and Satisfaction with Life Scale. The results of study 1 showed that the students obtained somewhat higher mean scores on engagement compared to burnout. Significant effects on burnout and engagement were made by influences that included whom the student lived with, the distance between home and university campus during studies, frequency of visits to home, employment status of parents, frequency of library use, and gender. No relationship was established for place of residence with burnout and engagement. Study 2 showed that a measure of study demands and resources for students was sufficiently reliable and valid to be used for assessment. Results showed a statistically significant relationship between each observed variable and its respective construct. A positive relationship between study resources and satisfaction with life, as well as a negative relationship between study demands and satisfaction with life were found, which provides additional evidence for the construct validity of a measure of study demands and resources. Age was significantly related to study resources and satisfaction with life. The results of study 3 showed that study demands and a lack of study resources (including the intrinsic nature of study tasks, relationships with lecturers and social support of peers) were positively associated with burnout. The availability of study resources was positively associated with psychological well-being and engagement. Burnout predicted psychological unwell-being symptoms, while engagement predicted satisfaction with life. Burnout partially mediated the relationship between a lack of study resources and psychological unwell-being, while engagement partially mediated the relationship between the availability of study resources and satisfaction with life.