A successful first-year experience and its associated factors at a university in Hong Kong – A case-study with mixed-method approach

  • Ching Man Kannass Chan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Student success continues to be a hot topic in the higher education literature. In many countries retention is often used as an indicator of this success. In Hong Kong, there is an interesting phenomenon that almost 100 percent of students who enter government-funded university four-year undergraduate programmes continue to sophomore years and graduation. In a region with such a high retention rate, the meaning of student success and its driving forces is worthy of investigation, particularly when existing research mostly measures retention or uses similar measures of persistence and withdrawal to indicate first-year success. The present study used student involvement and engagement theories, via the Input-Environment-Output framework, to consider different aspects of driving forces leading to success in the current context.

This mixed-method study was conducted in one of the largest government-funded universities in Hong Kong. It consisted of two main parts. The first, involving focus groups with current university students, was used to broaden the definition of first-year success, to capture students’ perceptions of success in multiple domains. In the second part a survey was conducted with over 1500 first-year undergraduate students, to investigate the extent to which different dimensions of first-year experiences influence students’ defined success. Data were also gathered from the institution’s Electronic Student Records, providing additional demographic and academic information to understand the impact of student characteristics on first-year success.

This study presents a new conceptualization of student success, using students’ perspectives to reveal that first-year success is a holistic concept that encompasses overlapping domains of social, personal and academic success. The findings extend the common focus on retention in the student-success literature and show that success is influenced by multiple aspects of student encounters during their first-year university life. The results highlight the complex interconnections between success and the significant impact of multiple influences. Implications for policy and practice for the higher education sector, both in Hong Kong and in the region, are identified from these results.
Date of Award29 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJo Rose (Supervisor)


  • Student success
  • Higher education
  • Drivers to student success

Cite this