The Academic Achievement of Elite Athletes at an Australian University: Debunking the Dumb Jock Syndrome

Steve Georgakis, Rachel Wilson, Jamaya Ferguson


Elite athletes and their academic achievement in higher education have long been subject to considerable debate within North American scholarship. This interest proliferated especially after the release of the Knight Report (2001), which, amongst other findings, revealed a clear negative link between elite athletes and their academic achievement. While sport has always had a long and prominent presence in Australian higher education, both sport and education scholars have given very little attention to this area. To rectify this neglect, this study investigates the academic achievement of elite athletes (N=313) at an Australian university and compares their results to the general student population in the 2012 academic year. Using both qualitative interviews (n=20) and quantitative secondary data analysis, the findings suggest that despite heavy sporting commitments and necessarily demanding training timetables, the sampled elite athletes performed at levels equal to, or superior to, their peers. In particular they show a lower failure rate. These findings are discussed in relation to student abilities, education program management and the challenges faced in terms of elite athlete stereotyping.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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