Head of Ucas expresses concern as recent data reveals gender gap in UK higher education is widening

Comments made on same day Ucas releases data showing there to be more women than men in two thirds of courses

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 06 January 2016 14:21

The head of Ucas has expressed concern for the low number of boys securing places in education compared with girls on the day the organsation published data on admissions to full-time undergraduate higher education.

Chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said - despite the clear evidence and press coverage - there is a “deafening policy silence on the issue.” She added: “Has the women’s movement now become so normalised that we cannot conceive of needing to take positive action to secure equal education outcomes for boys?“

Her remarks came on same day the further education admissions service released data on the numbers of men and women accepted to over 150 higher education subjects, which showed there to be more women than men in two thirds of courses.

Last month, Ucas showed women in the UK are 35 per cent more likely to go university than men, describing how the sex-gap has been “widening to a record level.”

However, latest figures for students who started courses in the autumn of 2015 have shown women to outnumber men in 112 subjects out of a total of 180. According to the data released on Tuesday, women have been charging ahead in subjects including psychology (81.7 per cent), social work (88.3 per cent), and academic studies within education (88.7 per cent). Nursing took the top spot as being the most female-dominated subject of last year with 90.5 per cent.

In response to the Ucas head’s comments, Dr Lee Elliot Major - chief executive of education think-tank The Sutton Trust - described how it is “a tragic waste of talent with a significant economic cost” to learn of how disadvantaged boys from white, working class backgrounds are performing so poorly in academics, reported The Telegraph.

The site added how Dr Major said it was of utmost importance to close attainment gaps in gender ethnicity, and background, and added: “Students who are at particular risk of falling behind should be given additional encouragement and support.”

While men are ahead in traditionally male-dominated subjects, including computer science and engineering, The Guardian reported how president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), Caroline Jordan, said more needs to be done to inform girls about the careers offered in such fields. Highlighting her concern, she said: “We know we need one million new engineers and technicians in the next five years.”

On the whole, the gender gap has almost doubled in just an eight-year period, with 66,840 more women now on degree courses than men, compared with 34,035 in 2007.

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