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University gender gap remains at record high

Female school leavers in England are 36% more likely to apply to university courses than their male counterparts. Data published by Ucas indicates that the gap, the same as last year, remains the highest on record. Results also show that English applicant levels as a whole decreased by 1%, which is lower than expected given that the number of 18 year olds in the UK has declined by 2.2%. David Cameron has set goals for universities to double the rate of those from less advantaged areas who go on to university study by 2020.

The figures published by the admissions service cover those applying to begin undergraduate degrees in September this year and show that nearly 100,000 more women than men have applied to higher education. The data was released on 4th February and shows that 343,930 women submitted an application for full-time study at a UK university, compared to 249,790 men.

Experts have suggested that one reason for this divide is that women tend to achieve higher exam results. If the results are adjusted to take this factor into account, then male school leavers in fact are more likely to be successful in their applications. The chief executive of Ucas, Mary Curnock Cook, has stated that she believes the “potential of young men is somehow being let down by the school system”. Drives to encourage female students into stem subjects were launched, after it was discovered in 2015 that only 13% of science, technology, engineering and maths workers are women. However, there have been no equivalent campaigns to inspire disillusioned male students into higher education. David Willetts, the former universities minister, claimed in 2013 that white, working class boys should be targeted for university recruitment in the same way as “disadvantaged groups”.

However, these statistics into the applications gender gap are published after it was revealed that teachers are “over-predicting” sixth form students A-Level results to assist them in achieving offers from universities and there has been no suggestion of female favoritism in this case.

The results in Scotland show an even wider gap between genders, with girls 55% more likely to apply to higher education institutions than boys. The figure in Wales is 50%, while in Northern Ireland the 39% gap is the largest in 7 years. The number of applications to UK universities from the EU, excluding the UK, rose by 6%, meaning that total numbers of applicants again reached a record high.

School leavers from disadvantaged areas of the UK, however, are now more likely to apply to further education than in any previous year. This figure has risen by 2% in Scotland, 5% in England and 8% in Wales.

09/02/2016

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