What's in a relationship? Affective commitment, bonding and the tertiary first year experience – a student and faculty perspective

Jana Lay-Hwa Bowden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Increasingly, higher education institutions are being held to account for the performance of their students internally in terms of academic performance and timely program completion, as well as externally through job placement. This challenge is compounded by a range of additional factors including fluctuating, international economic conditions, an increasingly globalised, competitive environment, widespread provision of online qualifications, and high student drop-out rates. There is a pressing need therefore to understand the factors which contribute to positive perceptions of institutional services and the way in which these drive student retention, especially within the first year experience. This research aims to explore the role of affective commitment in students' perceived satisfaction within the student-university relationship and the effect of this on retention in an Australian tertiary context. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative approach was adopted using four focus groups and eight in-depth interviews with first year undergraduate students enrolled at a large metropolitan Australian university. In addition, an online expert forum was used to obtain qualitative verbatim from 22 internationally-based faculty educators. Findings – The results of this study suggest that the development of deeply entrenched emotional bonds with students is important in facilitating high levels of satisfaction during the first year experience. In addition, a sense of belonging was perceived by faculty as being the primary mechanism for ensuring the retention of students beyond the first year of enrolment. Practical implications – From a managerial perspective, uncovering the nature of student-institution relationships and the importance of affective forms of commitment will enable higher education institutions to develop more targeted relationship marketing programs to increase student retention. Originality/value – In a unique contribution, this research examines this issue from the perspective of first year students, as well as from an international faculty perspective, enabling a multi-dimensional comparison to be drawn between the perceptions of the student, and the service provider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-451
Number of pages24
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2013


  • Affective commitment
  • Bonding
  • Engagement
  • First year experience
  • Higher education
  • Student retention
  • Student-faculty relationship
  • Student-university relationship


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