Who Are the Doctoral Students Who Drop Out? Factors Associated with the Rate of Doctoral Degree Completion in Universities

Robin Wollast, Gentiane Boudrenghien, Nicolas Van der Linden, Benoît Galand, Nathalie Roland, Christelle Devos, Mikaël de Clercq, Olivier Klein, Assad Azzi, Mariane Frenay


The issue of considerable dropout rate in doctoral programs is well documented across a large number of countries. However, few studies address the factors associated with doctoral completion among Non-U.S. countries, multiple universities and fields of research. Nor do they investigate the interactions between these factors. The present paper aimed to overcome these limitations and analyzed the population of doctoral students in all disciplines of the two largest universities of the French-speaking Community of Belgium (N = 1509). Specifically, we focused on several factors: gender, nationality, marital status, master grade, whether students continued at the same university when transitioning to the doctoral degree, whether they continued in the same field, age at registration, research field and funding (i.e., type of funding and associated job requirements). Findings indicate that four factors (marital status, master grade, research field and funding) are directly associated with dropout rate when all factors are considered jointly in the same model. Furthermore, results indicate that some of these factors, such as the marital status and gender, interact. In addition, we found that an accumulation of risk factors leads to a massive increase in dropout rates. Finally, a time course analysis revealed that the highest dropout rate occurs during the first two years and is related to the absence of funding or scholarship. The results, limits and futures perspectives are discussed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v7n4p143


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