Determinants of Student Satisfaction and the role of personality, stress and perceptions of student stress

Research Student: Tegan Formby
BPSych Research Group: Yale Agro, Norelle Browne, Kristin Chow, Elizabeth Potter, Sahar Shafizadeh

Date: Completed January 2013
Ethics Approval Number: 2012/099


The purpose of the study was to determine the relationship stress levels and personality dispositions had with student satisfaction with their university experience. “The level of satisfaction in students about their university experience is in part determined by stress levels and personality type”, was the focus of the research. The term Satisfaction has been used to refer to the evaluation of students’ educational experience and is of a multidimensional nature that needs to meet and exceeds students’ expectations. A Stressful response occurs when a situation is perceived as demanding and when resources are insufficient or unavailable to cope with the situation. Five universal personality types exist, Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. It was the position of this research to explore any possible relationships between personality and stress, personality and satisfaction and stress and satisfaction.


A sample of 87 pupils was recruited from Murdoch University, from Subject Pool and via flyer. Participants consisted of 70 females and 17 males, ranging from 18 to 55 years of age, and from first year of degree to five and above. A questionnaire constructed from several items including: the Student Satisfaction Inventory, Student Perception of Teacher Survey, the Stress in General Scale and the International Personality Item Pool, was completed by all participants.


Findings suggest a relationship between the overall satisfaction male and female students have with their university experience at different years of study. Students are most satisfied, on average, with their university experience in their third year of study. Participated in the study, on average, feet stressed “every once in a while”, and are satisfied, on average, “sometimes”. Lecture factors correlated highly with satisfaction levels. Students seem to value not only the capability of the lecturer and how engaging they are in the classroom, but also examples of applying theory to practise put forward by lecturers so students can understand the concept in its entirety. Satisfaction with ancillary services seem to be ranked from expectations and faculty availability followed by management and presentation of contend, and ending with peer support and course core content. Extroversion accounted for 6.4% of the predictability of student’s level of satisfaction with their university experience. Procrastinating was shown to be the most significant factor linking to stress level of students. On average students claim to be extremely anxious about their academic performance. Students high in neurotic traits seem to be, on average, more stress and less satisfied with university. Conscientious students experience fewer disruptions, fewer daily hassles as a student, and less stress during their university studies and over the life course


Implications of the present study include providing support across the academic and also across the course of a degree. Social support networks need to be established. It should be the position of a university to hold social events that promote support systems to be developed. Focusing on large dissatisfaction gaps from student feedback can reduce the number of unhappy experiences; improve student retention and the recruitment of future students.

Limitations included the small sample researched. Only one school within the university was explored, school of psychology. Applying findings to other schools will be challenging. The uneven gender distribution also makes it hard to apply sex differences to other degree within other universities. The current study also does not address all recruitment and retention factors associated with student’s university of choice. Many other factors affect students’ satisfaction with the university experience: prestige, fee paying or HEX position, past grades and academic pursuits, family life, present life situation and setting, and have yet to be explored, providing grounds for future research.

In summary, data reviewed in this study suggested that understanding the role of personality and stress on the satisfaction level of university students’ can assist administrative and management boards with meeting and exceeding the needs and wants of prospective and future students.