DUBAI // To a researcher's surprise, a study at Zayed University has found that its best students are married women.
The study showed that, far from being distracted by the demands of being a mother and wife, married women are at the pinnacle of academic performance, and unmarried men at the bottom.
The paper was proposed by a research student, Amal Al Marzooqi, who had suggested initially that married women would struggle to maintain high grades.
"What she found was actually the opposite," said Justin Thomas, an assistant professor in psychology at Zayed University (ZU), who wrote the paper with Ms Al Marzooqi and Monique Raynor, a psychology lecturer.
"She ate humble pie and carried on with the project, and found some rather interesting results."
The research team studied the transcripts of 3,672 ZU undergraduates.
Roughly half were at the Abu Dhabi campus and half in Dubai. Women accounted for 90.2 per cent of the sample (ZU was all-female until 2008). Married students accounted for 2.8 per cent.
When the records were analysed, the researchers saw that women get better grades than men and married students get better grades than the unmarried.
Overall, women had a grade point average of 2.64 and men an average of 2.41 - roughly corresponding to a low B and a high C respectively.
Further, married students had a grade point average of 2.76, versus 2.62 for the unmarried - this time, both in the low B range.
The researchers also found that age was a key to performance, with older students outscoring the young.
The results of the study were published this month in the ZU journal Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
The researchers also carried out interviews with students to discuss how they were able to manage their competing demands.
"Females who are married are able to find the balance," Dr Thomas said.
"They are able to perform their roles as mothers, daughters and wives, and still maintain a decent grade point average. They said that being married allowed them to develop time management skills that they didn't have before. The additional responsibility of being married actually spilt over into their academic life and made them stronger students."
The study reinforces a wealth of studies showing that women outpace men in their studies. Women in the Arabian Gulf tended to outperform male students in all subjects - including mathematics and engineering.