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17th March 2014

Female students more ‘psychologically resilient’

In comparison to men, women with ‘resilience’ are much more likely to get a first or 2:1 in their first year than those without

A study by Leeds Metropolitan University on students entering their first year has found that those with “psychological resilience” are likely to perform better, with women far outpacing men.

The study was carried out by a collaboration between Leeds Metropolitan’s Counselling Service and the Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure.

1,534 full-time students entering the University were tested for the “capacity to adapt to new challenges” and their scores used to predict their attainment mark at the end of the first year.

The results were presented in a study published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling.

Overall, it was found that those with the characteristic of resilience outperformed those who did not.

However, those who were both female and with the capacity for psychological resilience were two times as likely to achieve a 2:1 or first in their first year than similar men.

Leeds Metropolitan’s Jim McKenna, professor of physical activity and health, said “Although… the outcomes suggested similar academic performance by gender, higher resilience was progressively and incrementally associated with higher grade profiles for females”.

In certain cases, men with resilience clearly underperformed in comparison to those without the characteristic, and many dropped out of the study. This trend was not reflected in the women observed.

This may show that the system of higher education is better suited to tough-minded women than men.

“There are concerns at how the general nature of [higher education] has evolved to favour female students,” said John Allan, who carried out the study.

In regards to the underperforming male students, he added, “It could easily represent a purposeful and functional choice.”

The researchers also recommended that male students receive extra counselling to ensure they fulfil their academic potential.

At the University, targeted intervention in order for males to access counselling has already been brought in.

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