University success ‘genetic’, says study
Genes influence choice of university as well as exam performance, according to KCL researchers
Genetic make-up significantly determines not only how well a student will do at university, but even which institution they choose to attend, according to the first study into the link between genetic make-up and higher education outcomes.
Researchers at King’s College London analysed thousands of identical and non-identical British twins to unpick the contribution DNA and other variables, such as home life, make to higher education success.
Identical twins share the same genetic make-up, which “enabled researchers to measure the overall impact of genetics on how much people differ when it comes to measures such as exam scores”, says The Independent. “If identical twins’ exam scores are more alike than non-identical twins’, it is an indication genetic factors are driving that success.”
The results suggested that genes account for 46% of a student’s performance, with the rest of the variation attributed to environmental factors such as parents’ wealth and quality of the individual’s secondary schooling.
Previous research has suggested between 50% and 80% of the variation in people’s IQ is inherited.
The decision to go to university in the first place also appears to be influenced by a person’s genes, as well as which institution they choose.
As intelligence affects school exam results and they in turn influence higher education options, “it’s unsurprising that genes may be linked to university destination too”, says New Scientist.
However, Dr Emily Smith-Woolley, who led the study, says the findings should have implications for students and teachers.
“Knowing that the difference between us in our university achievement is partly due to genetics is interesting and important, anyway,” she told The Independent.
It follows research from earlier this year which found that social mobility is partially written into our genes.
A study of more than 20,000 people in the UK, US and New Zealand found those with certain genetic variations earned more money, had better careers and got further in education.
The Daily Mail says the study “lends weight to the theory that nature rather than nurture largely determines how well people get on in their lives”.