Academics at Leeds Metropolitan University tested around 1,500 students at the start of their first year to see if levels of psychological resilience – deemed “the capacity of individuals to adapt to new challenges” – affected academic performance.
Those who were judged as “resilient” were more likely to do well in their first year studies, but the trend was much more pronounced for female students than for male ones.
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.
In some cases, men with higher resilience scores did worse than those less able to cope with stress – a phenomenon not seen in women.
John Allan, senior lecturer in physical education and sports pedagogy, who conducted the research with Jim McKenna, professor of physical activity and health, said the research demonstrated the “unpredictability of adaptive capacity”.
“Although at the end of the inductees’ first academic year the outcomes suggested similar academic performance by gender, higher resilience was progressively and incrementally associated with higher grade profiles for females,” added Professor McKenna.
The study may suggest the general nature of higher education is better suited to women, particularly those with a tough mindset, the researchers said.
It also recommended extra counseling is provided for male students because psychologically resilient men are not fulfilling their academic potential, perhaps through a “purposeful and functional choice”, it adds.
This course of action has already been adopted at Leeds Met as a result of the research, the study adds.