Student entry profiles do not define their chance of success

During the Writtle College HE Open Day yesterday, one of the parents accompanying their daughter asked me why our UCAS Tariff for the new Integrated Master in Bioveterinary Science was so much lower than similar courses at other HEIs.

At the time, my answer was that  I don’t believe that the decisions young people make in their early education journey and/or circumstances in their life when they are 16-18 years old should define their chances of entering higher education and their chances of becoming a successful graduate.

When I got home later that day, I started thinking more about this, and suddenly I remembered a TED talk I was shown in one of the workshops I took for my PgCert in Higher Education Practice. The talk was by Angela Duckworth and describer her research into “grit”.

Grit, or in my words “sheer hard word and dedication”, is something that is really important in higher education, especially in the transition from secondary education. In her talk, Angela refers to work done on Mindset Theory by Carol Dweck, who has also given a TED talk on the subject:

I strongly identify with the idea of Growth Mindset in young people, especially when they just arrive at university. Some of my most successful students have come in with entry profiles which were not even close to being considered at various “elite” institutions and graduated with first class honours degrees, after which they obtained postgraduate studies places at the institutions where they were rejected a mere 3 years earlier. Similarly, I see students with stellar entry profiles who don’t make it through year 1, because for the first time in their education journey they are confronted with setbacks and they fail to deal with it.

I am of the opinion that, with hard work, dedication and an open mind (or in other words grit and a growth mindset), candidates with less than ideal entry profiles can become successful HE graduates. Perhaps not all of them graduate with a first class award, but a student who works as hard as they can, takes up all opportunities they are offered, and who is passionate about what they do and ends up achieving a 3rd class or 2:2 class award is a successful graduate in my book. Mainly because the grit and mindset they have shown during their higher education journey will serve them really well further on in their career. These students have a bright future…

I plan on showing this videos on grit and growth mindset to new first year students next academic year, in the hope that it inspires them to think about their future and how they are going to get there.