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The Value of a University Education Extends Beyond Knowledge

The Value of a University Education Extends Beyond Knowledge
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Australian researchers find the experience changes students’ personalities—for the better.


A debate has emerged in recent years over whether a college education is really worth the expense and effort. After all, it is argued, emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than academic learning. And universities don’t teach those skills, do they?

Well, it turns out they do. That’s the takeaway from new Australian research, which finds a university education has a positive impact on two key personality traits—extroversion and agreeableness.

“We see quite clearly that students’ personalities change when they go to university,” Sonja Kassenboehmer of Monash University, the paper’s lead author, said in announcing the findings. “It is good news that universities not only seem to teach subject-specific skills, but also seem to succeed in shaping skills valued by employers and society.”

The study, published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, tracked 575 Australian adolescents over eight years. Their level of each of the “big five” personality traits—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—was measured in surveys taken just after they finished high school, and again four and eight years later.

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