Validity and reliability of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Student Version in Sri Lanka
Wickramasinghe et al. BMC Res Notes
Validity and reliability of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Student Version in Sri Lanka
Nuwan Darshana Wickramasinghe 0
Devani Sakunthala Dissanayake 2
Gihan Sajiwa Abeywardena 1
0 Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka , Saliyapura 50008 , Sri Lanka
1 Teaching Hospital-Kandy , Kandy 20000 , Sri Lanka
2 Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya , Peradeniya 20400 , Sri Lanka
Objective: The present study was aimed at assessing the validity and the reliability of the Sinhala version of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Student Version (UWES-S) among collegiate cycle students in Sri Lanka. Results: The 17-item UWES-S was translated to Sinhala and the judgmental validity was assessed by a multi-disciplinary panel of experts. Construct validity of the UWES-S was appraised by using multi-trait scaling analysis and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) on data obtained from a sample of 194 grade thirteen students in the Kurunegala district, Sri Lanka. Reliability of the UWES-S was assessed by using internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Except for item 13, all other items showed good psychometric properties in judgemental validity, item-convergent validity and itemdiscriminant validity. EFA using principal component analysis with Oblimin rotation, suggested a three-factor solution (including vigor, dedication and absorption subscales) explaining 65.4% of the total variance for the 16-item UWES-S (with item 13 deleted). All three subscales show high internal consistency with Cronbach's α coefficient values of 0.867, 0.819, and 0.903 and test-retest reliability was high (p < 0.001). Hence, the Sinhala version of the 16-item UWESS is a valid and a reliable instrument to assess work engagement among collegiate cycle students in Sri Lanka.
Work engagement; UWES-S; Collegiate cycle; Sri Lanka; Exploratory factor analysis; Validity; Reliability
Keeping on par with the emerging trend towards a
positive psychology focusing on optimal functioning rather
than on malfunctioning, a growing enthusiasm is evident
in student engagement research during the last few
Work engagement is defined as, “a positive, fulfilling,
work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigor
(VI), dedication (DE), and absorption (AB). Rather than
a momentary and specific state, engagement refers to a
more persistent and pervasive affective-cognitive state
that is not focused on any particular object, event,
individual or behaviour” [
Engagement of students in their academic environment
has been studied in numerous disciplines [
] and the
global literature suggests that students’ engagement is
positively linked with their academic performances [
] and positive academic outcomes [
educators and policymakers are increasingly focusing on
student engagement as a means of addressing problems
of negative academic outcomes of varying student groups
Amongst the different assessment tools of student
work engagement, the most commonly used instrument
is the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Student Version
], which is a 17-item self-report
measure assessing VI, DE, and AB subscales.
Even though a plethora of research has been conducted
on work engagement among varying student populations
across the globe, there is a paucity of literature in the
South Asian context with no published literature on work
engagement among Sri Lankan students, mainly owing
to the lack of validated assessment tools. In the context
of ever-increasing burden of mental health problems in
the Sri Lankan collegiate cycle students [
exploration of effective strategies for mental health and
wellbeing promotion has become a timely need. Hence, the
present study was designed to assess the validity and the
reliability of a culturally adapted Sinhala version of the
UWES-S among collegiate cycle students in Sri Lanka.
Structure of the UWESS‑
The 17-item UWES-S is a self-administered
questionnaire (SAQ) with six, five, and six items assessing VI,
DE and AB subscales respectively, measured on a
sevenpoint Likert scale anchored by the response options from
0 (never) to 6 (every day).
Translation and pre‑testing of the UWESS‑
The 17-item UWES-S was translated to Sinhala by using
the forward–backward translation method [
involving two independent bilingual translators, who are
fluent in Sinhala and English.
The synthesised forward translation of UWES-S was
pre-tested among a sample of 25 grade thirteen students
outside the study setting. In a subsequent structured
interview, the clarity in understanding, acceptability, and
comprehension of items and feasibility of using the
questionnaire were assessed. None of the items of the
questionnaire was claimed to be difficult to understand.
Appraising the judgemental validity of the UWESS‑
The face, content, and consensual validity were assessed.
Using a modified Delphi technique, a multi-disciplinary
panel of experts in the fields of psychiatry, psychology,
public health, teaching, student counseling, and
medical education has assessed each item on its relevance,
appropriateness, and acceptability in the local context
for assessing burnout among collegiate cycle students
based on a rating scale from 0 (strong disagreement) to
10 (strong agreement). At the end of this iterative
process, except for the item 13 stating, “When studying, I
am very resilient, mentally”, all other items had a median
score more than 7 for all the aspects. Thus, it was decided
to include all 17 items for the assessment of construct
Study design and setting
This school-based, cross-sectional validation study was
conducted in the Kurunegala district, North Western
province, Sri Lanka from May 2014 to April 2015. In Sri
Lanka, the collegiate cycle in the education system
consists of grade twelve and thirteen. Three Sinhala medium
government schools in the Kurunegala district having all
four collegiate cycle subject streams, viz., Science, Arts,
Commerce and Technology were selected.
From the selected schools, three grade thirteen classes
each were selected representing both male and female
students studying in all four subject streams. A total
of 194 students participated in the study in their
classrooms and each participant filled the SAQ
independently. The response rate was 100.0% and 55.2%
(n = 107) of the sample were females. The mean age was
18.3 years (SD = 0.43 years). The majority of students
were studying in the Science stream (n = 78, 40.2%).
The numbers of students in the Arts, Commerce and
the Technology streams were 60 (30.9%), 41 (21.2%),
and 15 (7.7%) respectively.
Data were analysed by using the Statistical Package for
Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17.0. Preparatory data
analysis showed that there were no violations of the
assumptions related to the data analytic techniques.
Given that the participants to variables ratio was 11.4,
the sample size was adequate for factor analysis [
Even though there were few items that showed
nonnormal distribution of data, it is considered to be a
ubiquitous phenomenon in psychological assessment
Multi‑trait scaling analysis
Item-scale correlations were analysed and
item-convergent and item-discriminant validity were assessed.
A stringent criterion of correlation of 0.40 or greater
between an item and its own subscale was considered
as a success for assessing item-convergent validity.
Furthermore, in assessing item-discriminant validity,
items that correlated significantly higher (more than
1.96 standard errors) with its own subscale than with
the other two subscales, were considered as scaling
Exploratory factor analysis (EFA)
EFA was conducted by Principal Component
Analysis (PCA) with Oblimin rotation. Kaiser’s criterion/
eigenvalue, scree plot and parallel analysis were used
to decide the number of factors to retain. The factors
that lead to a meaningful interpretation and theoretical
sense were ultimately selected.
Assessment of reliability
Reliability was assessed using internal consistency and
test–retest reliability by re-administering the SAQ to a
sub sample of 22 grade thirteen students after 2 weeks.
Descriptive statistics of the UWES‑S scores
Descriptive statistics of UWES-S subscales are given
in Table 1. The mean item score was highest in the AB
subscale (4.52, SD = 1.40) and was lowest in the DE
subscale (3.70, SD = 1.23).
Multi‑trait scaling analysis
Table 2 summarises the results of the multi-trait
scaling analysis and as per the predetermined cut-off values,
except for item 13, item-convergent validity and
itemdiscriminant validity were confirmed for other 16 items
in the UWES-S.
Exploratory factor analysis
Item 13 was found to have poor psychometric
properties in judgemental validity, item-convergent validity, and
item-discriminant validity. Deletion of item 13 from the
subscale also improved the internal consistency. Hence,
both 17-item UWES-S and 16 items of the UWES-S
(item 13 deleted) were subjected to PCA. The Kaiser–
Meyer–Olkin Measure were 0.851 and 0.855 respectively
and Bartlett’s test of sphericity reached statistical
significance (p < 0.001) for both versions.
Only three factors had eigenvalues more than 1.0,
which cumulatively explained 63.9% and 65.5% of the
total variance for the 17-item and 16-item UWES-S
versions respectively. For both versions, the parallel analysis
showed only two factors with eigenvalues exceeding the
corresponding criterion values and the screeplot showed
a clear break after the second factor.
However, for both versions, the component matrix
in PCA with unrotated loadings revealed a number of
items of UWES-S loading on the third factor with values
greater than 0.3. Furthermore, the pattern matrix
generated in PCA using direct Oblimin rotation revealed that
seven items had loading values more than 0.3. Based on
this collective evidence, it was decided to ‘force’ a
threefactor solution for further investigation.
Even though both Varimax rotation and Oblimin
rotation was used, it was decided to report statistics related
to Oblimin rotation as the factors were strongly
correlated (> 0.3). The rotated three-factor solution revealed
a simple structure with all three factors showing a
number of strong loadings. In the 17-item UWES-S version,
the three-factor solution explained a total of 63.9% of
When I study, I feel like I am bursting with energy 0.824
When studying I feel strong and vigorous 0.835
When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to school 0.834
I can continue for a very long time when I am studying 0.661
When studying, I am very resilient, mentally 0.046
When studying I always persevere, even when things 0.698
don’t go well
I find my studies to be full of meaning and purpose 0.468
My studies inspire me 0.447
I am enthusiastic about my studies 0.356
I am proud of my studies 0.358
I find my studies challenging 0.324
Time flies when I’m studying 0.472
When I am studying, I forget everything else around me 0.457
I feel happy when I am studying intensively 0.333
I am immersed in my studies 0.350
I can get carried away by my studies 0.379
It is difficult to detach myself from my studies 0.353
the variance, with factor one contributing 41.4%, factor
two contributing 14.9%, and factor three contributing
7.6%, whereas, the corresponding values for the 16-item
UWES-S version were 65.4, 44.0, 14.2, and 7.2%. Table 3
shows the pattern and structure matrix for PCA with
Oblimin rotation of three-factor solution of 16-item
The interpretation of three-factor solution of the
UWES-S with item 13 deleted, was consistent with
previous research on the UWES-S, with subscale items of
VI, DE, and AB loading strongly on three different
factors. Hence, the three-factor solution with item 13
deleted was considered as the validated Sinhala version
of the UWES-S.
Assessment of reliability
The impact of each item on the related subscale was
assessed by computing Cronbach’s α when the
respective item is deleted. None of the items in DE subscale and
AB subscale improved the overall Cronbach’s α value;
however, deletion of item 13 improved the Cronbach’s α
value from 0.696 to 0.867. Hence, item 13 was removed
from the UWES-S and the reliability was re-assessed for
internal consistency and all three subscales show high
internal consistency with Cronbach’s α coefficient values
of 0.867, 0.819, and 0.903 for VI, DE, and AB subscales
There were strong, positive statistically significant
(p < 0.001) correlations for each of the three subscales
of the UWES-S in test–retest reliability assessment. The
correlation coefficients were 0.831, 0.866 and 0.839 for
the VI, DE, and AB subscales respectively.
The present study was designed to validate the Sinhala
version of the UWES-S among Sri Lankan collegiate
cycle students addressing an important research vacuum
on work engagement research in high school students in
the South Asian context. A cross-sectional study design
and the sample size of the study deemed appropriate with
the study objective.
In assessing the judgemental validity, item 13 (“When
studying, I am very resilient, mentally”) had the least
median rating score and the main concern raised
regarding the item was the difficulty in explaining the phrase
“mentally resilience” in Sinhala language. The global
literature suggests that modified versions of the UWES-S
with removal of several items have been used in work
engagement among high school, college, and university
21, 22, 31
Even though the three-factor structure of the Utrecht
Work Engagement Scale (UWES) has been confirmed
in a large number of studies [
], the limited
number of studies that explored the factor validity of the
UWES-S have failed to provide convincing evidence to
support the three-factor structure of the UWES-S [
Furthermore, the findings of the study conducted by
], raises concerns about the three-factor
structure of UWES. This evidence coupled with the
fact that UWES-S is a relatively novel measure in the
South Asian context, EFA was employed to assess the
construct validity, instead of using confirmatory factor
The three-factor solution of the original 17-item
UWES-S, explained 63.9% of the variance, whereas
the three-factor solution of the UWES-S with item 13
deleted, explained 65.4% of the variance. Furthermore,
the interpretation of the three-factor solution of the
UWES-S with item 13 deleted, was consistent with
previous research on the UWES-S with subscale items of
VI, DE, and AB loading strongly on three different
In assessing the internal consistency, deletion of item
13 improved the Cronbach’s α value from 0.696 to 0.867
and all three subscales showed high internal
consistency. This finding is consistent with findings of studies
using the Portuguese version [
], Spanish version [
Dutch version [
], Turkish version  and
Romanian version [
] of the UWES-S.
The present study also revealed that there were
statistically significant strong positive correlations for each
of the three subscales of UWES-S in the test–retest
reliability assessment. Though these findings are
consistent with the previous study findings [
], the values
were not as high as those reported in that study.
In conclusion, the study findings indicate that the
Sinhala version of the 16-item UWES-S is a valid and a
reliable instrument to assess work engagement among
collegiate cycle grade thirteen students in Sri Lanka.
Due to its brevity, ease of administration and sound
psychometric properties, it could be used as an
effective screening tool at the school level. The study
findings pave the way to establish the initial evidence base
for the relevance and the applicability of the concept of
work engagement in the South Asian context.
This study has some limitations. Given that the study
sample was recruited not using a probability sampling
technique in a selected district of Sri Lanka, the
generalisability of the study findings to other populations should
be done with caution, considering the variations in
educational and cultural contexts. Furthermore, given that
the three-factor structure of the UWES-S is established
in the present study, confirmatory factor analysis
procedures are recommended for future studies.
AB: absorption; DE: dedication; EFA: exploratory factor analysis; PCA: principal
component analysis; SPSS: Statistical Package for Social Sciences; UWES-S:
Utrecht Work Engagement Scale-Student Version; VI: vigor.
NDW, DSD and GSA were involved in the conception and design of the study.
NDW collected, analysed and interpreted data. DSD and GSA made substantial
contribution to data analysis and interpretation. NDW prepared the
manuscript. DSD and GSA made substantial contribution to revise the manuscript.
All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Authors would like to acknowledge all the students who participated in the
study for their support, all experts involved in assessing the judgmental
validity of the study instrument for their valuable contribution and guidance, and
Mrs Shanthi Attanayake and Mrs Bhagya Senanayake for their support during
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets used and analysed during the present study are available from
the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Consent for publication
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Ethical clearance to conduct the study was obtained from the Ethics Review
Committee of the Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University
of Sri Lanka (Reference No: ERC/2014/057). Informed written consent form all
the participants were obtained prior to data collection. (All the participants
were above the age of 16 years.)
This work was supported by the University Grants Commission-Sri Lanka,
under the Postgraduate Research Grant scheme [Grant Number: UGC/DRIC/
PG/2015(I)/RUSL/01]. The funding body did not involve in the design of the
study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affiliations.
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