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Academic performance

Female students perform better than men, research finds

A study by Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom has shown that female students with high resilience levels are likely to outperform male peers academically.

The researchers say its findings have implications for student support services in a higher education system that now favours female students. According to the study resilient women are twice as likely to average a first or a 2:1 in their first year at university than resilient men, the study says.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, was a collaboration between the university´s counselling services and its Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure.

The research project was led by John Allan, a senior lecturer in physical education and sports pedagogy, and Jim McKenna, professor of physical activity and health.

A total of 1534 first year students were profiled for their psychological resilience as they came to university. Resilience represents the capacity of individuals to adapt to new challenges.  Of the group, 51.8% were male and 48.2% female, all aged 18 or 19 at the time of the research.

Resilience gender difference

Preliminary analysis showed that the link between resilience and academic performance was similar across all student. Yet further analysis revealed an important gender difference: resilience had more positive effects in females than males.

The findings, he added, confirmed the unpredictability of adaptive capacity. "Although some males showed signs of resilience in respect to attainment – almost one-fifth of males high in resilience attained a 2.1 grade – there were twice as many others with similarly high scores who acquired lower grades, while another portion withdrew from study.

The study may suggest the general nature of higher education is better suited to women, particularly those with a tough mindset, the researchers said.

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