Original Research

Working-class postgraduates’ perceptions of studying while working at a selected university

Dimitri A. Rockman, John K. Aderibigbe, Charles O. Allen-Ile, Bright Mahembe, Desiree A. Hamman-Fisher
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 20 | a1962 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v20i0.1962 | © 2022 Dimitri A. Rockman, John K. Aderibigbe, Charles O. Allen-Ile, Bright Mahembe, Desiree A. Hamman-Fisher | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 April 2022 | Published: 15 November 2022

About the author(s)

Dimitri A. Rockman, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
John K. Aderibigbe, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Charles O. Allen-Ile, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Bright Mahembe, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Desiree A. Hamman-Fisher, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: The life of working-class postgraduates can be exhilarating and daunting, juggling the commitments of full-time employment and postgraduate studies. Insofar as can be established, little, if any, research has been conducted on exploring the experiences of such students in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. An in-depth investigation is necessary to assist management and academic institutions to support such students.

Research purpose: The purpose of the study was to understand the selected working-class postgraduate students’ perceptions of studying while working simultaneously, as well as explore the experiences, challenges and coping mechanisms of the cohort of students.

Motivation for the study: The severe financial challenges, psychological burnout and other obstacles that working-class postgraduates face, which often impair their ability to perform optimally in both their career and studies, motivated the research. Therefore, recommendations can be made to management and institutions of higher learning to assist such students.

Research approach/design and methods: The study was positioned in the qualitative research paradigm and used explorative single case study research design and semi-structured interview approach to collect data from the research participants. Four-stage content analysis method was used to analyse the interview transcripts, because the focus was on understanding the content and contextual meaning derived from the transcribed texts. Seven themes were identified, namely, development and growth, applicability of knowledge across school and work, time management and planning, drive and ambition, struggles and sacrifices, support systems/services and work–study balance.

Main findings: The results indicate that time management skills and planning, drive and ambition, work–study balance and support from employers and family are significant coping factors that promote working-class postgraduates’ success in their careers and studies.

Practical/managerial implications: Given the positive role that time management skills and support play in ensuring professional and academic success, the researchers advocate for professional and institutional interventions. Such interventions could be in the education, training and development domain that can ameliorate the effects of conflicting demands of work and postgraduate studies.

Contribution/value-add: Initiating the conceptualisation of a coping mechanism model that combines effective management with high motivation and goal setting can stimulate additional empirical-related research towards validating the conceptual model.


Keywords

coping mechanisms; psychological well-being; self-motivation; time management; working-class postgraduates; work–study balance

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