In his recently published article, titled ‘Swallow your pride and fear’: The Educational Strategies of High-Achieving Non-Traditional University Students, Dr. Billy Wong (Lecturer in Widening Participation at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education), reports on the views, experiences and strategies of first-generation higher education students who have ‘bucked the trend’ and excelled in their academic degree. This research has since been reported on the BBC News website here.

Dr. Wong’s study offers important new insights into the subtle but significant decision making processes that seem to have contributed to their academic success, extending the plethora of research that have focused on the struggles, challenges and barriers of those from non-traditional backgrounds, such as mature and minority ethnic students.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, found that the management of individual pride and fear to be central in the academic success of non-traditional university students, especially the dilemma between knowing and doing what is necessary to excel academically. For instance, students may have too much pride to ask for help, or too scared to seek support.

This paper unveiled the power of ‘just ask’ and if we can play a part in students’ educational journey, educators ought to accustom themselves to proactive practices whenever appropriate, possible and feasible. For instance, to break down the apparent stigma of seeking support, the practice of asking for help must be normalised as part of the teaching and learning process. We need to dispel the perception that seeking support is reserved for those who are desperate or dependent and promote the importance of students utilising their available support as a key attribute of an independent student.

For more practical suggestions, please read his open access article here. More information on Dr. Wong’s research interests can be found on his staff profile page here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.



Wong, B., & Chiu, Y.L.T. (2019). ‘Swallow your pride and fear’: The educational strategies of high-achieving non-traditional university students. British Journal of Sociology of Education.