Predictors of timely doctoral student completions by type of attendance: The utility of a pragmatic approach

John Rodwell, Ruth Neumann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Federal government changes to the funding of doctoral students have focused the attention of university management on their completion rates. The aims of this paper are to inform the allocation of institutional resources in a manner that improves the likelihood of timely doctoral completions and to highlight a process that can also be used for analyses of other key indicators of progression and attrition. The analyses and model development used national data readily available to all universities, which are collected in a standard approach through the Graduate Destinations Survey (GDS). The findings show that the most important variable for timely completion was attendance (full-time compared with part-time), whereby in terms of full-time equivalent (FTE) years of study, part-time students were far more likely to complete quickly than full-time students. For the full-time students, the key predictors of timely completion were residency, field of study and English-speaking background (ESB). The timeliness of part-time students was predicted by field of study and ESB. This study confirms that there is considerable variation by discipline for timely doctoral completions. The pragmatic application and prospective test of the derived models present a variety of opportunities for research student administrators. For example, those full-time students scoring highly represented a concentration of timely graduates more than 7.5 times higher than the lowest-scoring group - almost an order of magnitude of difference. In short, university management could gain tremendous value from more widely using the data available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Higher Education Policy and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


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