Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Nursing and Midwifery

Faculty

Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Ptofessor Cobie Rudd

Second Advisor

Professor Alfred Allan

Third Advisor

Dr Michael Monisse-Redman

Abstract

The issue of student management and retention remains one of the most pertinent considerations for any university. In a climate of increasing awareness of mental and physical health issues, university policy development needs to adapt to ensure all students engage with and utilise support services effectively. It would appear that there are various influences on a student’s university experience, including learning abilities and styles, impact of life events and situations, for example, housing and finance, availability of support services and the ability of an individual to seek out appropriate help. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in combination with the Health Belief Model can provide a strong foundation for universities to begin to understand why a student may not achieve their potential, or may depart prematurely. This theoretical interaction postulates how needs are determined and prioritised subsequently influences help-seeking behaviour. The application of this interaction assists with developing a picture of students who have ongoing issues, for example: housing, finance, and lack of family support, and how these issues can lead to problems with learning, achievement, and ultimately academic performance. The purpose of this thesis is concerned with seeking to understand how and why students access support services within the university setting, and whether the support services have an impact on the levels of psychological distress. This thesis was conducted in two phases, both collecting data through the use of surveys. Phase one, intended to collect information directly from support services concerning students who were accessing them, however, phase one did not achieve its aim due to lack of responses from support services. Phase two profiled the experience of students who have interacted with support services; this profile assisted in a review of relevant services including how the provision of university support services potentially affects student’s psychological distress. Results revealed a lack of data for measuring service outcomes, for example measures of psychological distress, which might impact on students’ ability to succeed at university. Recommendations were generated based on the discussion relating to the lack of phase one data and the phase two student profile, these recommendations aiming to enhance the ability of university systems to identify and promote effective help-seeking behaviour, and the efficacy of those systems in reducing psychological distress. The implications of this research include the potential for enhancing operational policies relating to student management and retention within Australian universities.

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