Annual entry figures show that women are 35% more likely to go to university than men, with increasingly wide regional variations.
Where ‘gender’ is the central theme of a new topic, educated assumptions are formed based on the previous evidence that women are part of the minority. However, this item of news puts women at the forefront of an overwhelming majority, where the often-debated gender gap appears to be changing.
UCAS recently released figures showing young women to be around a third more likely to attend university than men. With the largest figure on record of 523, 300 students beginning university this year, young women are dominating highly competitive courses of medicine, law and biology.
Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, commented that this unexpected reverse in the gender gap has been caused by the expansion of university courses and the improving performance of girls at school.
He was quoted saying that: “Girls have tended to get better A-level results more or less across the board than boys. They also seem keener to go to university than males, perhaps because they enjoy studying academically more.”
Wide regional variations also appear to be affecting those students entering higher education, with those living in London being 40% more likely to go to university than those in the south-west or north-west of England. This was shown in the statistics that UCAS admissions released, with figures suggesting that those most likely to attend university are: women, those living in London, those from affluent families and those in non-white ethnic groups.
According to the Office for Fair Access, nearly a third of universities are running outreach programmes in order to tackle the issue of the widening gender gap in students applying to university. If male students were to enter university at the same rate as female students, there would be an additional 36,000 attending said institution.
This year saw the removal of caps on student numbers, thus allowing universities to have the option to accept more students than ever before. Yet, it is clear from the data that UCAS has presented that while the body of students attending university is growing, the diversity of those attending is not. In response, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said the government had an “ambitious programme” to double the proportion of students from poorer backgrounds entering university by 2020.