A systematic review : student and supervisor variables affecting completion of postgraduate research requirements
South Africa has one of the highest postgraduate dropout rates in the world. One of the main contributing factors to the high number of unfinished Master’s and Doctorate degrees is incomplete theses and dissertations. Frequently postgraduate students complete all other course requirements, but are unable to complete the independent research component. Ethics clearance was obtained from the Senate research committee at UWC. This study used a systematic review methodology to identify appropriate literature on the personal characteristics and demographic variables of postgraduate research students and supervisors and the impact that these variables have on completion rates. The study evaluated the literature for methodological quality in order to enable comprehensive identification, evaluation and meta-synthesis of the current best evidence regarding personal and demographic factors which may affect the supervisory relationship and help or hinder completion rates. This resulted in an evidence base of filtered information which can be used by individuals, institutions of higher education, and government or non-government organisations to inform individual practice, specialised training programmes and general psychoeducation. The results indicated that there is empirical evidence from good quality research that personal and demographic variables impact the working alliance between students and supervisors, and ultimately the completion of the research. Race, gender, spirituality, isolation, and socio-economic status were among the more prominent factors identified.