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Katrina van Wieirngen, Andrea Formicola, Amy Peirone and Teresa FalsettaFrom left, are Katrina van Wieirngen, Andrea Formicola, Amy Peirone and Teresa Falsetta. The sociology grad students studied the relationships between academic entitlement, academic achievement and workplace entitlement.

Academic entitlement leads to negative consequences, student researchers find

While the majority of students aren’t suffering from a sense of academic entitlement, for the ones who are, there can be serious negative consequences both during school and after they leave, according to a group of graduate students in sociology who studied the issue.

A group of students from the Master’s in Social Data Analysis program studied the findings of a survey of 1,025 university students, who were asked about 90 questions regarding their sense of academic entitlement, academically dishonest behaviours, and workplace entitlement.

Academically entitled students are those who, for example, might believe it's acceptable if they leave class early, that exams should be rescheduled if they conflict with their personal plans, or believe they should get marks simply if they demonstrate that they're trying hard, according to Katrina van Wieirngen, one of the group of students who analyzed the data.

"I would say it’s probably a small minority,” van Wieirngen said of participants who scored high on a scale measuring for academic entitlement. “The average student had a score of about 21 on our scale, and scores range from 11 to 66, so it’s still a small population.”

Along with colleague Teresa Falsetta, van Wieirngen studied the link between academic entitlement and achievement, while Amy Peirone and Andrea Formicola looked at the relationship between entitlement and unrealistic expectations on the job.

Among their findings, they reported:

  • Students with higher levels of academic entitlement reported earning lower grade point averages
  • Students with lower academic entitlement attitudes were less likely to engage in academically dishonest behaviours like cheating on a test or plagiarizing on an essay compared to those who scored higher
  • Students with consumerist attitudes who believe they deserve good grades because they “bought” their education also tend to have lower GPAs and higher levels of academic entitlement
  • Higher levels of academic entitlement were a strong predictor of higher levels of workplace entitlement, or unrealistic expectations about salaries and workplace conditions, rapid promotions and regular bonuses

The students had a number of suggestions to help discourage academic entitlement among their peers, including encouraging professors to clearly state their expectations in their course outlines, and providing clear examples of what constitutes an A paper.

Peirone also suggested helping students manage their expectations about future job prospects would be helpful.

“That’s the message that we need to get to students: that you’re not here to buy your degree,” she said. “You’re here to learn and work hard for it, so that you can eventually get a good job afterwards, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a job. Having a degree might be what gets you the job, but your performance is what’s going to get you the raises, the bonuses and the promotions.”