Trend analysis of first year student experience in university

  • L.L. Lekena TUT
  • A. Bayaga University of Zululand


Using the theoretical framework of Tinto (2013), the first objective of the current research was to establish the experience of first year students within the first few weeks of their studies in university, and the second objective addressed some of the problems they faced within those first few weeks.   Based on the research objectives, a questionnaire was used as the data collection tool. The total number of participants in the survey was 4 020. This represented 27% (4020 out of 15 217) of all University of the Mega Don (pseudonym) first year students registered in 2014.                                                                                            With regards to disability, the survey results indicate that 34 (0.9%) of the surveyed students have disabilities. However, the majority (327 out of 338 (96.7%)) of these students are not registered with the disability office. More than half of students, especially those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds, dropout because they are unable to bear the direct and indirect costs of university attendance or are unable to continue attending when financial needs change. The results indicated that 1 001 (25.7%) of the surveyed students did not attend orientation due to late registration and other reasons. However, 1 604 (48.5%) of the surveyed students would like some orientation type activities to be repeated later in the year. The findings of this study show that 1 835 (47.3%) of the students did not know where the Student Development Support (SDS) was located on their campus. Almost half (47.5%) of the respondents indicated that they are not happy with where they live. The findings further show that 1 187 (31.8%) of the surveyed students have transport problems. The majority of the respondents 2 827 (74.9%) would choose University of the Mega Don again if they were rechoosing a higher education institution. The survey results indicate that most surveyed students, 58.3%, rated their experience at University of the Mega Don between good and very good.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

L.L. Lekena, TUT

Professor. A. Bayaga

Research Professor

(Neuro-Mathematics & Information Systems)

Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education (MSTE)

T: +27 (0) 35 902 6809

Office No.: NE 208

Private Bag X1001, KwaDlangezwa 3886

University of Zululand

South Africa


Baker, S.2012. Students’ writing and the transitions from school to university: hybrid ‘discourse of writing’ positions of students and teachers. 1st International Australasian Conference on Enabling Access to Higher Education, Adelaide, Australia.

Bowden, J.L.H. 2013.What’s in a relationship? Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 25(3) pp. 428 – 451.

Council on Higher Education (CHE). 2009. Higher education monitor: The state of higher education in South Africa. Pretoria: Council of Higher Education.

Creswell, J. W. 2014. Research design: Qualitative &quantitative and mixed method approach (4th ed.).Sage Publication Ltd.

Drysdale, M.T.B., Ross R. & Schulz, R.A. 2001. Cognitive Learning Styles and Academic Performance in 19 First-Year University Courses: Successful Students Versus Students at Risk. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 6:3, 271-289.

Geiser, S. & Santelices, M.V. 2007. Validity of high-school grades in predicting student success beyond the freshman year: high-school record vs. standardized tests as indicators of four-year college outcomes.” Research & Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.6.07. University of California, Berkeley Retrieved; 20 February 2017.

Herrera, O. L. 2006. Investigation of the role of pre- and post-admission variables in undergraduate institutional persistence, using a Markov student flow model. PhD Dissertation, North Carolina State University, USA).

Kotsiantis, S., Pierrakeas, C., & Pintelas, P. 2004. Predicting students’ performance in distance learning using machine learning techniques. Applied Artificial Intelligence, 18, 411-426

Hillman, K. 2005. The first year experience: the transition from secondary school to university and TAFE in Australia. LSAY Research Reports. Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report

Keeling, S. (2003). Advising the millennial generation. NACADA Journal23 (1&2) pp. 30-36 -

Kovačić, Z. J. 2010. Predicting student success by mining enrolment data. Research in Higher Education Journal. Pp 1-16.

Larkin, K., Rowan, L., Garric, B. & Beavis, C. 2016. Student Perspectives on First Year Experience Initiatives Designed for Pre-service Teachers in their First Weeks of University Study. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice. 13(1).

Letseka, M. & Maile, S. 2008. High university drop-out rates: a threat to South Africa’s future. HSRC Policy Brief March 2008.

Lewin, T. & Mawoyo, M. 2014. Student access and success: issues and interventions in South African Universities. Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement.

Lourens, A. & Smit I.P.J. 2003. Retention: predicting first-year success. SAJHE/SATHO, 17(2): pp 169-176.

Lowe, H. and Cook, A. 2003. Mind the gap: are students prepared for higher education? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 2 (1): 53 – 76.

Masters, J. & Donnison, S. 2010. First-year transition in teacher education, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(2), 6, retrieved from,

Modipane, M. 2011. Initial experiences of first entering students at the University of Limpopo: implications for coping with academic work/studies. a case study, South African Journal of Higher Education. 25(8), pp.1592-1607.

Ogude, N., Kilfoil, W. & du Plessis, G. 2012. An institutional model for improving student retention and success at the University of Pretoria. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 3(1). 21-34.

Ribeiro, E., Feixas, G., Maia, A., Senra, J. & Dada, G. 2012. Changes in the Construct Systems of First-Year University Students: Impact on Psychological Symptoms and Problem-Solving Skills. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 25:2, 170-180.

Scott, I. 2008. First-Year Experience Conference Stellenbosch, September 2008.

Thomas, L. 2012. Building student engagement and belonging in Higher education at a time of change: a summary of findings and recommendations from the What Works? Student retention & Success programme. Report by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Accessed on 29 May 2013. Url:

Thurber, C. & Walton, E. 2012. Homesickness and adjustment in university students. Journal of American college health, 60(5), pp.415--419.

Tinto, V. 2012. Enhancing student success: Taking the classroom success seriously. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 3(1) (2012): 1-8. Accessed 22 May 2013. Url: 10.5204/intjfyhe.v2i1.119

Tinto, V. 2013. Theoretical underpinnings and research framework for student success. Presentation to the CHE symposium 20 August 2013, Pretoria. Accessed 15 January 2014. Url:

University of Johannesburg. (2013). UJ enrolment details. Accessed on 9 June 2013. Url.

Upcraft, M. L., & Kramer, G. (Eds.). 1995. First-year academic advising: Patterns in the present, pathways to the future (Monograph No. 18). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience.

Van Zyl, A., Gravett, S. & de Bruin, G.P. 2012. To what extent do pre-entry attributes predict first year student academic performance in the South African context? South African Journal of Higher Education, 26(5) pp. 1095 – 1111.

Wojciechowski, A. & Palmer, B.L. 2005. Individual Student Characteristics: Can Any Be Predictors Of Success In Online Classes? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(2); pp2-20.

Yu, C. H., DiGangi, S., Jannasch-Pennell, A., Lo, W.and Kaprolet, C. 2007. A data-mining approach to differentiate predictors of retention. In the Proceedings of the Educause Southwest Conference, Austin, Texas, USA.

How to Cite
Lekena, L.L., and A. Bayaga. 2018. “Trend Analysis of First Year Student Experience in University”. South African Journal of Higher Education 32 (2), 157-75.
General Articles