Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

Developing a Strategic Capability for Student Engagement Using Social Capital: A Case Study at a Pathways College

Academic journal article The ACPET Journal for Private Higher Education

Developing a Strategic Capability for Student Engagement Using Social Capital: A Case Study at a Pathways College

Article excerpt

Abstract

The importance of international education to Australia's economy has led to a strong interest in the international student experience. To conceptualise the student experience, student engagement is used. Although the student engagement literature identifies the multi-dimensionality of student engagement, it provides limited guidance on how student engagement can be managed. In this article, I propose that student engagement, defined as an institutional capacity, can be developed as a strategic capability. This capability can be developed through social capital-networks of relationships that allow coordination and cooperation to address social issues. By using social capital an institution can connect students with the broad social support structures recommended to deal with the complexity of student engagement. I examine the above propositions in a real context using data from the initial stages of a research project on student engagement at a pathways college. The data confirm the complexity of student engagement. The data also demonstrate that the case study college has knowledge of the multiple factors influencing student engagement. I therefore maintain that educational institutions need to develop the capability to deal with that complexity. However, the data do not support the use of social capital to embed student engagement as a strategic capability. The next stages of the research need to be completed to determine how initiatives introduced over the next 12 months at the case study college can develop this capability.

Keywords

student engagement, social capital, pathways, ELICOS, strategic capability

Introduction

The importance of international education to Australia's economy (Australian Education International, 2011; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2010, 2011) has led to an intense interest in the international student experience (Brett, 2009; English Australia, 2010). This interest has been enforced with the introduction of the Good Practice Principles from the Australian Universities Quality Agency and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (Australian Universities Quality Agency, 2008) and a continued focus on the student experience by the government and governance bodies (English Australia, 2010; Krause, Hartley, James, & Mclnnis, 2005). The overt link between the student experience and retention and progression, two key performance indicators for educational institutions (Roberts & McNeese, 2010), has kept the student experience at the strategic forefront of the industry.

Student engagement is a conceptual representation of the student experience (Kuh, 2001, 2003; Tinto, 2005a, 2005b). Various research reports and publications have examined student engagement (Brett, 2009; English Australia, 2010; Krause et al., 2005) considering a spectrum of issues from practicalities (Mitchell & Carbone, 2011; Rowe & Savelsberg, 2010; Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition, 2009) to theoretical dimensions (Krause & Coates, 2008; Kuh, 2003; Tinto, 2005b).

Tinto (2005a, 2005b) approached student engagement as an institutional capacity since student engagement occurs within the context of an educational institution. Drawing from the resource theory of organisations (Barney, 1991; Pfeffer & Salancik, 2003; Prahalad & Hamel, 1990; Wernerfelt, 1984, 1995), this article contributes to the student engagement literature by extending Tinto's idea. In this article, I contend that educational institutions must develop student engagement as an embedded strategic capability- an ability to influence student engagement positively through the core operations of the organisation- to manage the complexity of student engagement. This is an area that remains a gap in the student engagement literature. Although Tinto (2005a, 2005b) and Kuh (2001, 2003) have discussed institutional factors that influence student engagement, the student engagement literature provides limited guidance on how educational institutions can develop the capability for implementing these factors. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.