Research highlight

Genetics: Genes may influence university choice and achievement

Scientific Reports

October 19, 2018

Genes may, in part, influence young adults’ decision to go to university, which institution they attend and how well they do, according to a study in Scientific Reports.

Ziada Ayorech and colleagues analyzed genetic information from 3,000 individuals and 3,000 twin pairs to examine the extent to which genes explain differences in measures related to university education between young adults. By comparing identical and non-identical twins, the authors found that genetic factors explained 57% of the differences in A-level exam results (used to determine university entrance in the UK), 51% of the difference in university choice, 57% of the difference in the quality of the chosen university (as measured by factors including academic reputation and employment prospects), as well as 46% of the difference in achievement at university.

Previous studies have shown that genetic factors explain a substantial amount of the differences between students' educational achievement in primary and secondary school. However, the authors suggest that this genetic influence continues into university. They argue that this may be because university allows students freedom to choose classes and environments based on their genetically influenced aptitudes. Furthermore, they found that, although the ‘shared’ environment, such as family or school, influenced the decision to go on to university, it was individual or ‘unique’ environments that explained part of the differences in university achievement.

As well as using twins to untangle the genetic and environmental influence on measures of university success, the authors also used DNA alone to show that university success was influenced by genetics.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32621-w

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