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Assessing the link between stress and retention and the existence of barriers to support service use within HE

Campbell Casey, S.A.; Westbury, T.; Florida-James, G.; Harris, P.J.; Campbell, Samantha A; Westbury, Tony; Florida-James, Geraint


S.A. Campbell Casey

T. Westbury

G. Florida-James

P.J. Harris


Students suffer from stress as a result of many factors, including educational unpreparedness, financial strain and inability to integrate socially. This mixed methods study aimed to investigate stress levels of undergraduate students in a post-1992, Scottish university and the potential for measures of stress to act as an indicator of a student’s intention to continue. The study sampled primarily engaged students as tests were administered during timetabled classes and required the students’ voluntary participation. The level of perceived stress reported by these students appeared to be high (mean PSS-14 scores of 18.42 (SD 8.452) and 24.57 (SD 8.969) for males and females, respectively) and was coupled with intention to drop out across all study levels (12.1% of students sampled reported ‘seriously considered dropping out’). Perceived stress score predicted a student’s intention to withdraw but this association did not transfer to actual withdrawal, suggesting that other factors, most likely coping mechanisms, play a part in mediating the withdrawal behaviour. Unfortunately, despite the seemingly high levels of stress and potential worry over dropout, students are reluctant to seek support and many were unaware of the support services available through the university. Given the engaged nature of these students, their feelings are unlikely to be made known to staff as they will not necessarily register on non-attendance lists or be flagged because of missing assignments, which are often used as indicators of potential problems. This brings to light a previously hidden student group that may benefit from additional support to prevent unnecessary underachievement or dropout.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 28, 2014
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2015
Publication Date 2016-11
Deposit Date Mar 11, 2015
Journal Journal of Further and Higher Education
Print ISSN 0309-877X
Electronic ISSN 1469-9486
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 6
Pages 824-845
Keywords Undergraduate; Stress; Retention; higher education; engaged;
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