Student success in an MBA programme: the role of cognitive ability, personality and selection practices
The focus of this thesis was to determine the factors that contribute to the successful completion and throughput rate of the MBA programme. Cognitive ability, selection criteria and managerial competencies will be tested for the reliable prediction of successful completion of the MBA programme. The reasons for drop-out and non-completion of the MBA programme will further be determined. The study followed that article route which includes four articles that contributes to the focus of the study. In Article 1 the best predictors of successful completion of MBA first year students were determined. Cognitive ability and selection criteria were tested for reliability as predictors of MBA first year success. Students enrolled between the years 2006 and 2013 at a South African business school formed the population of N=777 of the study. A longitudinal quantitative research design was followed. Numerical cognitive ability was found to be the best predictor of MBA first year success, defined here as the successful completion of all first year MBA modules within the first academic year. Type of undergraduate qualification was found to influence academic performance. It was found that language of delivery was related to MBA I success and that younger students out-performed their older fellow students. The purpose of Article 2 was to determine the factors contributing to the successful completion and throughput rates of a MBA programme. A longitudinal quantitative research design was followed. The population of the study included 472 (N=472) students enrolled between the years 2006 and 2013 at a particular South African business school. A databank of cognitive ability assessment and biographical detail gathered during the selection process was available to the study. Numerical- and verbal cognitive ability were compared to timeous MBA completion results Logistic regression analysis was applied to determine the relation of the cognitive and verbal ability measures, former education, gender, age and language, to the successful completion of the MBA degree. Results indicated that cognitive ability is related to completion of the MBA degree. The study further showed that English language proficiency is related to academic success. Younger students performed better, compared to older students, indicating that age is related to MBA completion. Former education proved to have no relation to MBA completion. The focus/aim of Article 3 was to determine the role of managerial competency in the prediction of MBA academic performance. The study population consisted of a total of N=203 of students that started their study programme in 2010, and completed the MBA programme either in 2012 or 2013, respectively (3 – 4 years). Competency assessments gathered within the selection process was used and compared to timeous MBA completion. Logistic regression analysis was applied to determine the significance and the unique contributions of each of the predictors (biographical variables and eight managerial competencies) to academic success. The managerial competency that was best related to MBA academic performance was Creating and conceptualising followed by Supporting and co-operating. Results further indicated that the age of participants was related to academic success in that younger students were more representative in successfully completing the MBA within the allotted timeframe than older students were. Article 4 explored the reasons for drop-out and non-completion of MBA students through reflecting on their lived experience that led to discontinuation of their academic studies. The study followed a qualitative approach, specifically that of interpretive phenomenological analyses (IPA). The sample consists of 8 learners that dropped out from the MBA programme of a South African business school between the years 2013 and 2015. The study sample consisted of eight participants of which three were females and five males, aged between 27 and 54 years old. The main finding of this study was that the interplay of simultaneous events, challenges and demands that participants experienced during their part-time studies, described as coinciding circumstances in this study, was the most prominent reason for student drop-out and non-completion. The findings of this study contributes to the body of knowledge on student attrition by an in-depth understanding of the reasons for MBA drop-out and non-completion through the lived experiences of participants. The insight the study brought upon understanding the role and predictive value of cognitive ability and managerial competency upon MBA academic performance makes a significant contribution to this field of study. The study further contributes by gaining deep insight into, and understanding the demands of the corporate market regarding managerial competencies of MBA graduates and what the MBA curriculum should include. It is clear that the study will contribute to the field of career psychology. The study further contributes towards the understanding of the reasons of drop-out and factors that contribute towards early withdrawal from tertiary education. Attrition in higher education has been widely researched and retention models have been developed in the quest to explain and develop a deeper understanding of student retention. Finally, from the knowledge gained from this study a new model of student retention and drop-out was proposed which aims to present a more inclusive model of student attrition.