Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 4, No. 2 (2007)

Push and pull factors affecting the retention of university students in a climate of civil war

Daya J Somasundaram, University of Adelaide
Ratnajeevan Hoole
Arjuna J Somasundaram, James Cook University


Despite over seventy years of research, the retention of university students remains a major issue. In countries ravaged by long-term strife, the failure of universities to retain students has both immediate and long-term catastrophic consequences. Tinto identifies five factors that institutions can influence to increase retention. Somasundaram identifies psycho-social push and pull factors that affect the behavior of civilian populations affected by chronic civil war in Sri Lanka. This paper compares and contrasts these two conceptual models, illustrating the analysis with examples from individual cases. The forces at play in a community under stress are more complex and aggravated forms of those at play in calmer communities. The authors conclude that all parties, academics, students, the governments and the community have responsibilities, and often the more important issues are ethical, political and socio-economic rather than pedagogic. The issue is not only that students who succeed progress in the knowledge economy and may in the long term, help towards conflict reduction; but that dropping out may cause serious harm to both the individual and the community, costs that are often not counted.

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