Research links good looks, good grades

The research’s body of work is anchored on the role of student facial attractiveness on university grades. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Debate around the extent to which lecturers in universities and other institutions of higher learning are involved in sex for marks rages on.

The belief has always been that those who have found themselves at the wrong end of sexual harassment in Uganda’s institutions of higher learning are beautiful or attractive women.

The assumption has, therefore, been that if a beautiful or good looking female student registers good grades and a First Class degree, it is because she has slept her way to those good grades.

There is little or no empirical evidence in Uganda to support that hypothesis, with anecdotes for the most part fuelling speculation.

In the global north, research carried out by Adrian Mehic—an economics student at Lund University in Sweden—shows that indeed good looks and attractiveness have a direct impact on academic performance.

Mehic’s paper titled “Student beauty and grades under in-person and remote teaching” states in no uncertain terms that “physical appearance is an important predictor for success in life.” It further proffers that attractive individuals are likely to be more “self-confident, which can positively affect human capital formation” and that “attractive people are more satisfied with their lives, earn higher wages and grades, and are less likely to engage in criminal activity.”

Impact of beauty

The research’s body of work is anchored on the role of student facial attractiveness on university grades. In the main, it used data from mandatory courses prescribed under the Engineering teaching programmes in Sweden. The findings lead to the conclusion that beauty influences results, especially when students and lecturers interface.

“I first consider academic outcomes when education is in-person, and the faces of students are readily available to teachers. The results suggest that beauty is positively related to academic outcomes, however, the results are only significant in non-quantitative courses, which, to a greater extent, rely on interactions between teachers and students,” the research report reads.

The study also suggests that the influence of looks cuts across both genders.

“The beauty premium on grades in non-quantitative subjects hold[s] for both male and female students,” the researcher notes.

The researcher hastens to add that the female beauty premium, which is observed when education is interpersonal, is likely the product of discrimination.

Dip in fortunes

The paper, however, notes that a switch to emphasis on online teaching, which was precipitated by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, led to a decline in performance on the part of women.

“Switching to full online teaching resulted in deteriorated grades in non-quantitative courses for attractive females. However, there was still a significant beauty premium for attractive males,” the report notes, adding, “Taken together, these findings suggest that the return to facial beauty is likely to be primarily due to discrimination for females, and the result of a productive trait for males.”

The conclusion that men too benefit from their looks will most likely go some way in drawing a line under the widely held belief that attractive women sleep their way to the top of their classes. 


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