The mixed methods research study Understanding College Community: Fostering Female Student Success at the Canadian Technical College in Qatar applied the critical feminist paradigm to investigate whether female students who were engaged in the college community, through participation in co-curricular activities, were more likely to achieve academic success and to have a positive perception of their college experience. It also sought to outline possible reasons for disengagement and made recommendations for increasing participation.

The value of the study lay in the context of a country where women are less likely to engage in public activities or participate in stereotypically male activities. It was unique in assessing whether female student engagement and academic and perceived success and barriers to participation, affect female student's ability to gain the transferrable skills necessary for employment (Stasz, Eide & Martorell, 2007). Although female post-secondary enrolment and graduation rates at all levels, including the graduate level, were four times higher than their male counter-parts, the data still indicated that women were five times more likely to unemployed after graduation (Permanent Population Committee, 2012).

The study consisted two phases. The first was a survey of thirty female participants who self-selected from the student body of a mixed-gender satellite campus of a Canadian technical college in Qatar. Data was analyzed to identify demographic trends and correlations among the variables of: Grade Point Average (GPA), ethnicity, student perception, reasons for disengagement and post-graduate plans. Analysis indicated that only 7% of the respondents were Qatari between the ages of 19–25. GPA data was gathered categorically with 77% of the respondents with a mean 3.0–4.0 (A and B letter grades). Rate of co-curricular engagement was assessed based 11 different possible areas or activities of engagement and was based on 1–5 Likert scale with an overall low mean rate of engagement of 2.48. Perception of college experience was assessed similarly based on seven aspects of college experience using a 1–5 Likert scale (college life, students, instructors etc). The findings indicated that student experience was overall very positive. The mean rate of perception was 4.10

Correlational data was analyzed using linear regression to compare three data sets: GPA and mean rate of engagement; GPA and perception of college experience; perception of college experience and mean rate of engagement. A two-tailed test of statistical significance using Pearson Correlation Coefficient indicated that a statistically significant relationship existed between GPA and engagement where the p-value = 0.03. Using the same methods of analysis, data subsequently indicated a statistically significant relationship, p = 0.00024, between GPA and perception of college experience (see Fig. 1).

In addition, data collected in the form of a checklist assessed the reasons for non-engagement. Participants indicated that the top for reasons for not participating in co-curricular activities included: feeling self-conscious, inconvenient times, not knowing what is available or family commitments account for the why are not engaged in

co-curricular activities. Although there was an overall low rate of engagement, nearly 100% of the respondents indicated their desire to participate in these types of activities.

From this cohort, the second phase of the survey consisted of three self-selected participated who volunteered to participate in one-on-one qualitative interviews. Interview questions were developed based on survey responses. Permission to record the interviews was obtained and the interview conditions were as identical as possible. Using qualitative analysis the interviews were transcribed and analyzed using the constant comparison method to identify the following five themes (Lichtman, 2013): development, socio-cultural barriers, value of education, importance of relationships and goal setting.

Interview data indicated that all participants believed that education was valuable because it helped develop the individual and that participating in co-curricular activities helped develop skills that are very valuable for employment. Participants unanimously indicated that women's behavior was influenced by socio-cultural norms whereby, ‘women have to be careful’. They all believed that freedom for women has significantly increased and that it will only continue to improve. These socio-cultural norms and sometimes restrictions were linked to family relationships. Women often indicated the influence or ‘advice’ of their fathers as both supportive and sometimes limiting in terms of their career choice, although all indicated that their families held education and employment in very high esteem. This further supported the survey findings, which indicated that 97% of the respondents intended to pursue further studies and/or seek employment therefore supporting the final concept of goal setting. All interview participants emphasized the importance of setting goals in order to achieve success.

Beyond the scope of this study is the notion that although women in Qatar are highly educated, they face a range of barriers to employment including cultural and social norms that make them less likely to engage in co-curricular activities and in the college community. The potential consequence being that female students were less likely to develop the necessary transferrable skills for success in gaining employment and remaining in the workforce. Interviews requested suggestions for recommendations for increasing engagement included, but were not limited to: linking co-curricular engagement to college courses, creating a new student ‘buddy program’ and instructors as role models by engaging or encouraging engagement in college activities.


Lichtman, M. (2013). Making meaning of your data. Qualitative Research in Education. Virginia: Sage Publications.

Permanent Population Committee. (2012). Qatar population status: Two years after launching the population policy. Retrieved from http://www.gsdp.gov.qa/portal/page/portal/ppc/PPC_home/ppc_news/ppc_files_upload/populations_status_2012_en.pdf


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