Original Research

Counselling support for postgraduate open and distance e-learning students in South Africa: A case study

Kamleshie Mohangi, Hermina Olivier
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 8 | a265 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v8i0.265 | © 2023 Kamleshie Mohangi, Hermien Olivier | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 2023 | Published: 15 September 2023

About the author(s)

Kamleshie Mohangi, Department of Psychology of Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Hermina Olivier, Department of Psychology of Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Despite the support structures offered at Open distance e-learning (ODeL) higher education institutions, slow completion and attrition attest to postgraduate students’ challenging study experiences. This qualitative and interpretivist case study examines postgraduate students’ experiences of counselling support at an ODeL institution in South Africa with the research question: What are postgraduate student experiences of counselling services, and how may they inform optimal practice at an ODeL institution? A questionnaire and semi-structured telephone interviews were completed by a total purposive sample of fifteen masters, doctoral and PhD students from one department at the institution. Data was analysed thematically. Findings indicate that although many students were unaware of the institution’s student support services, they would seek counselling. However, counselling decisions were impacted by counsellor-student gender, age, and cultural factors. Open distance e-learning counselling services require more awareness, accessibility, and robust online and digital media approaches. Future research could focus on more comprehensive postgraduate student experiences throughout the institution’s departments.

Contribution: Open distance e-learning postgraduate students face challenges that lead to slow progress and high attrition. Counselling support is crucial to help students overcome these barriers and complete their studies. This study highlights mature students’ obstacles when accessing counselling services to address their mental health and academic concerns. The research underscores the impact of age, gender, and culture on access to counselling services. Ultimately, the study emphasises the need for timely and improved counselling services to support postgraduate students in advancing their studies.


counselling, ODeL, online student support, postgraduate, student mental health

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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