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

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (Lingnan)


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 didn’t complete or attend university and are the first in their nuclear families to seek for 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 15 participants from the University of Education, Winneba, using purposive and snowballing sampling approaches. Six (6) first-year students, six (6) final-year students, and two (2) university officials from various departments at the University of Education, Winneba were interviewed one-on-one. NVIVO 12 software was used to conduct a thematic analysis. Themes that revealed from the study serve as proof that FGS are driven by several factors to pursue higher education and can be resilient enough to graduate from university if adequate and appropriate resources are available to enhance their university journey. Even though with resources such as Vice Chancellors Scholarships, Student Loan Schemes, and District Scholarships 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, thereby developing several character traits, coping mechanisms and forming their own agency. This paper contends that being aware of the barriers that hinder FGS motivations to navigate higher education successfully will help them move forward. Therefore, a collaborative effort which requires universities, the Ministry of Education, and policymakers and all stakeholders concern to redesign their approaches to influence FGS policies and practices to reach out to such vulnerable groups in the higher education environment is crucial.
Date of Award8 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorYusuf Ikbal OLDAC (Supervisor)

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