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Lecturers say ideal students more about attitude than marks – University of Reading

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Lecturers say ideal students more about attitude than marks

Release Date 02 January 2019

Student reading a book in the library

Students going onto study in Higher Education should be more concerned about having a positive attitude towards their studies than just getting good marks, according to new research. 

In a study published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education, academics from the University of Reading and Imperial College London conducted interviews with University lecturers. Those they spoke to suggested that the ‘ideal’ social sciences student will get the most out of their studies if they demonstrate six attributes that will provide the best benefit out of Higher Education:

  • Preparation for lectures and seminars
  • Engagement in their topic
  • Commitment to furthering their understanding of the subject
  • Critical thinking
  • Able to be reflective of their work
  • Able to progressively improve their work over their course


Dr Billy Wong, a lecturer in the Institute of Education at the University of Reading said:

“The idea of ‘going the extra mile’ is perhaps unsurprisingly desirable whatever walk of life someone is in. However, the attitude of hard work that it demonstrates is perhaps one of the most important traits that lecturers are looking for in their students. In our study, we found that lecturers we interviewed were not considered nearly as important as the process and personal development of students.

“In particular, two sets of efforts were praised. The personal skills of preparation, engagement and commitment go a long way regardless of career or subject-specific learning, and the interviewees said that they valued the maturity that comes from these values.

“Meanwhile, the academic skillset including critical thinking and progress over the course are suggested by lecturers to be a vital skill preparing students for ‘a very fierce world’ beyond their studies. Both these sets show that lecturers place far more emphasis on these attitudes and applies themselves far more than making a particular grade.

“While most attention regarding the rise of student fees has been focused on what universities can do for students, less emphasis has been placed on what students can do at University. We suggest universities need to address the gap in how students are expected to apply themselves without necessarily assuming that they would just ‘have’ these skills.”

Full citation: Billy Wong & Yuan-Li Tiffany Chiu (2018) University lecturers’ construction of the ‘ideal’ undergraduate student, Journal of Further and Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2018.1504010


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