English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Students and academic success: the role of campus climate, peer and faculty support
Background: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, enrolled in health care tertiary education, have lower graduation rates compared with English native speakers. The demographic profile of most western countries is continuously changing and therefore this issue has became a concern especially for those countries which are confronted with an acute health care workforce shortage. One of the most important predictors in student retention is their perception of academic success. The purpose of this study was to explore ESOL health undergraduate students’ perceptions of campus climate, faculty and peer social support, and sought to determine whether or not there is a relationship between these factors and ESOL students’ perception academic success. Methods: The study was carried out at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). The inclusion criteria for this study were: undergraduate students enrolled with the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, having other than English as their first language, and studying predominantely on one of AUT University’s campuses, namely Akoranga campus. The study implemented had a cross-sectional design using a novel purpose built electronic survey. ESOL health undergraduate students’ insights were explored using a 22-item web-based survey consisting of three scales: peer and faculty support, campus climate, and academic success. The content validity and realiability of each scale were tested. The study questionnaire was made available online to all ESOL health undergraduate students willing to participate in the research. Generalized estimating equations were used to test the study hypothesis. Six related binary outcome variables, measuring perceptions of academic success, were included in the analyses. Results: Twenty-seven ESOL health undergraduate students from a variety of health undergraduate programs agreed to participate in the research. The majority of participants were of Asian ethnicity with ages between 21 and 30 years and had completed their secondary education overseas. The GEE analyses showed that campus climate was significantly associated with academic success, p-value=0.01, but peer and faculty support was not, p-value=0.07. The estimated odds ratio (OR) for the campus climate relationship implies that for every unit increase in the first principal component factor for campus climate, the odds that a participant agreed with the academic success scale decreased by 0.43 (95% CI: 0.30, 0.84). The only open-ended question of the survey revealed that 39% of the participants did not intend to leave the faculty before graduation, while 17% saw the “lack of support” as a possible reason for abandoning the university without a degree. Conclusion: ESOL undergraduate students’ perception of campus climate may have an influence on their perception of academic success. Students’ perception of peer and faculty support was not significantly associated with academic success, but 17% of respondents to the open-ended question saw “lack of support” as a possible reason to leave the course before graduation. The findings were hampered by the small sample of ESOL students recruited.