A University education is chosen by many in the hope of a better job, big house and fancy car in later life.
But graduating may mean becoming a better person as well as gaining a degree.
A study has found people who go to university are more cooperative and extroverted for every year they are there.
It is not the teachings of Aristotle or the works of Shakespeare which build character, experts believe, but university life itself.
People exposed to hundreds of students they have never met, and communicating with academic staff every day, gain people skills.
They also do so through extra-curricular clubs and societies and social functions
A study by Oxford University Press and Monash University in looked at 575 Australian adolescents over eight years of their life.
Participants involved in the study were from a variety of different backgrounds.
Researchers looked at five different personality traits to see how going to university affected different people: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
These traits were picked because they are widely considered to accurately describe differences in a persons character.
The researchers found that university education has a positive effect on certain non-cognitive personality traits.
‘We see quite clearly that students’ personalities change when they go to university,’ said the paper’s lead researcher, Sonja Kassenboehmer.
‘Universities provide an intensive new learning and social environment for adolescents, so it is not surprising that this experience could impact on students’ personality.
‘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.’
University education coincides with the transition from adolescence into young adulthood and this pivotal time in a persons development normally leads to increasing levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability.
Although non-university going adults may be more aware as they age, they also become more closed and less outgoing.
Theoretically, university can boost, weaken, or even reverse this trend.
People that go to university are exposed to hundreds of students they have never met, and communicating with academic staff every day, gain people skills.
They also do so through extra-curricular clubs and societies and social functions.
Higher education alters this process, and the effect is even greater on people from a poor background.
University does this by providing young people with exposure to a variety of new activities and options.
The results also show that the longer spent at university, the more this trend continues.
Every additional year spent at university is associated with increases in extraversion and agreeableness for youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
In addition, university education is associated with higher levels of agreeableness for both male and female students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
The study states: ‘We suggest that the likely mechanism through which university education shapes outward orientation is through exposure to university life and less so through quality and what is being taught in class.
‘University education may foster these tendencies because it encourages participation in club activities, social functions, and communication with fellow students and academic staff on a continuous basis.
The research was published in Oxford University Press.