Experiences of first-generation students in a large public university in Ghana : a phenomenological study

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In this study, first-generation students (FGS) experiences in the higher education system of Ghana were explored. Only a few studies in Africa, notably Ghana, have focused on the concept of FGS. FGS are conceptualized as learners whose parents did not complete or attend university and are the first in their nuclear families to seek higher education. This research looked into FGS experiences at the University of Education Winneba, which is a large public university viewed as a haven for FGS in Ghana because of its mandate to train teachers for immediate employment. The study explored FGS motivations for pursuing higher education, coping mechanisms that support their persistence and resilience to pursue higher education, as well as interventional strategies that FGS can access to ensure their resilience and success in Ghanaian higher education. A phenomenological design was used to recruit 18 participants from the University of Education, Winneba, using purposive and snowballing sampling approaches. Six (6) first-year students, six (6) final-year students, and three (3) university officials from various departments at the University of Education, Winneba were interviewed one-on-one. NVIVO 12 software was employed to conduct a thematic analysis. The themes revealed from the study serve as proof that FGS is driven by several factors to pursue higher education and can be resilient enough to graduate from the university if adequate and appropriate resources are available to enhance their university journey. Even though resources such as Vice Chancellors Scholarships, Student Loan Schemes, and District Scholarships are available to all higher education students in Ghana, the FGS participants in the study report that such available resources were generally limited, inaccessible, discriminatory, and highly competitive, if not completely absent, in their own experiences. This compels the FGS to develop several character traits, and coping mechanisms, and form their own agency. This paper contends that being aware of the barriers that hinder FGS’s motivation to navigate higher education successfully will help them move forward. Therefore, a collaborative effort that requires universities, the Ministry of Education, policymakers, and all stakeholders concerned to redesign their approaches to influence FGS policies and practices to reach out to such vulnerable groups in the higher education environment is crucial.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2024
EventThe 68th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society: The Power of Protest - Miami, United States
Duration: 10 Mar 202414 Mar 2024


ConferenceThe 68th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
Abbreviated titleCIES 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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