Character education, which was discussed in your article “Can academics change their students’ personalities?” (News, 27 April) is not an antidote to social advantage, and Nik Miller, director of the Bridge Group, is right when he says that students from advantaged backgrounds access the opportunities to develop character education more than those for whom getting into higher education in the first place represented more of a social and financial struggle.
Universities are nevertheless an excellent place to encourage all students to take up those opportunities and to create incentives within the curriculum for them to do so. This is not about expecting academics to “teach” character. As Sir John Holman says, that’s not how it works. But we can look for ways to ensure that our teaching taps into the positive reinforcement of positive behaviours.
Few universities even consider the issue, however – as with raising soft skills and other non-academic areas of employability – we could do a lot more to develop social capital by thinking not just about what we teach, but how we teach – and also how students learn and how they engage with their whole student experience.