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Rethinking progression of engineering students: Influential factors
CONTEXT Universities and government tend to take a narrowly unhelpful view of progression by focusing on student retention and qualification completion. While retention and qualification completion are important outcomes, many engineering undergraduates focus on other goals, which revolves around employment and career. Therefore, progression should be moved beyond subject and qualification completion, and engineering educators should rethink progression of their students. The factors influencing student progression should also be identified. PURPOSE The purpose of this study is to propose a four-dimension model for progression of engineering students and investigate the critical factors influencing student progression through the empirical evidence from Central Queensland University. APPROACH This study holds a four-dimension view of student progression, including subject progression, qualification progression, career progression and professional progression. A total of 17 factors influencing student progression were identified, which supports the development of a questionnaire. A questionnaire survey was conducted with engineering undergraduates at Central Queensland University, which collected the data on students’ perception on the influential factors as well as their achievement on the four dimensions of progression. A total of 126 responses were returned from engineering undergraduates. RESULTS The data analysis results showed that the four-dimension progression model was confirmed. The one-sample t-test results indicated that seven factors significantly influenced student progression. Broadband and IT infrastructure, mathematical ability, and support from family and friends were the top three influential factors. The result also indicated that subject progression received the highest attention and that all the four domains were significantly achieved. CONCLUSIONS The concept of student progression should be moved beyond the traditional views, i.e. qualification completion. The four-dimension progression model will help engineering educator rethink how their students progress during and after their university life. In addition, to enhance the student progression, the critical factors, such as IT infrastructure, mathematical ability, and support from family and friends should merit more attention. An understanding of student progression and the influential factors will facilitate diverse engineering workforce.