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Why we need Emotional Intelligence in Higher Education

17 Jul 2018 | Dr Lorraine Dacre Pool Ten years ago, the article that introduced the CareerEDGE model of graduate employability was published.  At that time, Emotional Intelligence (EI) within an employability model seemed quite daring! Dr Lorraine Dacre Pool was expecting to receive a degree of negativity from the academic community.  She's pleased to report that this has never happened.  In fact, the inclusion of EI as an essential aspect of employability development has received nothing but positive feedback.

Lorraine is a Chartered Psychologist and Principal Lecturer (Student & Staff Development) at the University of Central Lancashire. She is also an HEA Principal Fellow.. She has a BA in Social Psychology from the University of Sussex and an MSc in Occupational/Organisational Psychology from the University of Manchester.  She undertook a PGCE and qualified as a teacher in 2004.  In 2005 she joined what was the Centre for Employability at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).  Recognising the need for a clear, practical model of graduate employability, she designed and published the CareerEDGE model and later developed the Employability Development Profile, both of which are in use in many universities nationally and internationally. She has particular expertise in the subject of Emotional Intelligence and the role this plays in graduate employability, which was the subject of her PhD research.  This also involved the successful design, delivery and evaluation of a taught module of Emotional Intelligence, details of which have been published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences. 

Ten years ago, the article that introduced the CareerEDGE model of graduate employability was published.  At that time, Emotional Intelligence (EI) within an employability model seemed quite daring! I was expecting to receive a degree of negativity from the academic community.  I’m pleased to report that this has never happened.  In fact, the inclusion of EI as an essential aspect of employability development has received nothing but positive feedback.

EI is concerned with the ability to perceive, understand and manage emotion, both in ourselves and others.   I’ve written elsewhere about why it’s important that we ensure our students are aware of EI.  We also need to give them opportunities to develop EI so that they achieve their aspirations for the future, particularly in relation to work.  Empirical research demonstrates that higher levels of EI are related to better workplace performance, engagement, decision making, stress resilience, conflict management, team working and leadership.  Providing students with EI training can result in more positive outcomes in a job recruitment situation.  Interestingly, a recent study has found that students with higher levels of EI go on to earn better salaries ten to twelve years after graduation.

We can teach our students to be more emotionally intelligent. It has been shown we can do this through taught modules or through other curriculum related activities, such as interdisciplinary project work.

EI is vital whilst our students are with us as research shows it can be essential for academic success. One benefit of having a good level of emotion perception and regulation ability is that it helps students to recognise their own anxiety about an academic task, for example, an exam or presentation. As a result, they can choose and use effective strategies to manage these emotions and deal with the situation.

The time young people enter HE coincides with a period of huge change in their lives, both physical and psychosocial.  Importantly, having good levels of EI helps them to deal with many of the challenges facing them, for example, making and keeping healthy relationships (both friendship and intimate).  Additionally, they will be better equipped to develop a good attitude to their studies and good relationships with their tutors.  They will be able to draw on these healthy relationships for support during the inevitable tricky periods experienced during any normal HE journey. 

Raising awareness of EI and providing opportunities for our students to develop it is important for all of us. Let’s remember, these are our potential future leaders, both in workplaces and society in general.  In addition to ‘love sweet love’* what the world needs now is more emotionally intelligent leaders!

*apologies to Hal David and Burt Bacharach

Lorraine’s new book, An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence, has just been published (July 2018). 

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