Organisational antecedents of intent to stay in the higher education sector
: Does quality of working life matter?

  • Sumayha Qudah

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Marketisation and managerialism in the higher education sector have resulted in increased demands on universities and academics. The higher education sector is considered a market commodity resulting in universities being market-led and student-oriented, where academics are viewed as public intellectuals serving a neo-liberalist strategy. Over time, the changes in the HE sector have negatively impacted academics’ mental health and wellbeing, resulting in overall low quality of working life (QWL), and a high level of employee turnover. Business school academics specifically face accelerating and continuous demands causing them to report the lowest QWL levels in comparison to other schools within the university. This study draws on social exchange theory to unravel the impact of QWL on intent to stay (ITS) in English business school. After careful consideration of the literature, it was proven that leader-member exchange (LMX), human resource practices (HRP), senior management teams (SMT), perceived organisational culture (POC), and perceived organisational support (POS) are believed to have the most significant impact on employees’ QWL and their ITS. Moreover, the moderating effect of academic self-efficacy (ASE) was examined between two hypothesised relationships: (a) QWL and ITS, and (b) LMX and ITS.

The study adopted an explanatory sequential mixed method design for data collection to investigate identified relationships. In the first phase, analysis included structural equation modelling partial least squares on 347 responses from 69 English universities. In the second phase, thematic analysis was used on 17 semi-structured interviews. Findings revealed POS, POC, HRP, and LMX to have a positive significant impact on QWL, respectively. Thus, QWL fully mediates the relationships between the four identified organisational factors and ITS. Contrary to our prediction, results fail to confirm the direct impact of LMX on ITS, the impact of SMT on QWL, as well as the moderating effect of ASE. The second phase of the study supports the findings of the first phase by providing an in-depth and rich data to support intriguing findings and better understand the relationships tested in phase one. This thesis contributes to building social exchange theory and expands on existing knowledge relating to the different factors studied and the contextual setting of the research, in addition to advancing existing theoretical assessments on the factors affecting academics’ ITS through QWL. Lastly, the findings offer valuable insight for university HR practitioners and managers.
Date of Award11 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFrances McGregor (Main Supervisor) & Emmanouil Apergis (Co-Supervisor)

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