A-level results 2015: Women outperform men again as record numbers secure university places

Head of the admissions body expresses concern about growing gender gap

Sarah Cassidy
Thursday 13 August 2015 18:41 BST
Students celebrate their A-level results at Dominican College in Belfast
Students celebrate their A-level results at Dominican College in Belfast (PA)

Record numbers of students have secured places at university but concerns have been raised about the performance of young men compared with that of women.

More than 409,000 people had already been accepted on to degree courses early on A-level results day, up 3 per cent – around an extra 13,000 students – compared with the same point last year. It was the highest number of acceptances ever recorded on the day results were published, according to Ucas.

But the head of the admissions body expressed concern about the growing gender gap among undergraduates, as figures showed that in excess of 27,000 more females are due to start degree courses this autumn than males.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, said: “I feel worried that so many more young women than young men are going to university, which in the long term is not going to be a good thing.”

The statistics also revealed a growing proportion of disadvantaged students heading to university, with a 4 per cent rise in the number accepted on to degree courses.

Ucas figures also show that around 362,000 students have been accepted on to their first choice of course, up 3 per cent on the same time last year.

The rise comes as the cap on university places in England is lifted, allowing universities to recruit as many students as they want to take.

Ucas said there had been a “healthy” 5 per cent rise in the number of UK 18-year-olds finding places, and a 2 per cent rise in 19-year-olds accepted onto courses. There were fewer acceptances for older students.

Around 24,090 EU students had secured places, a rise of 11 per cent, while spots for other international students were up 6 per cent to 29,170.

Universities minister Jo Johnson said: “By lifting the cap on student numbers, we are helping more people than ever benefit from higher education and gain the skills businesses seek to boost productivity and support growth.”

Professor Les Ebdon, director of the higher-education monitoring body the Office for Fair Access, welcomed the rise in students from less well-off backgrounds. He said: “This is testament to their efforts – often with the odds stacked against them – and the work universities and colleges are doing to raise aspirations and achievement among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

But the vice-president of the National Union of Students, Sorana Vieru, said that poorer students were more at risk of dropping out or underachieving at university because of financial pressures.

She added: “The numbers of part-time and mature students are declining and improving social mobility means paying particular attention to these groups. But higher tuition fees, maintenance-grant cuts and increased student debt shows the government is doing the opposite.”

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