A report published by the university admissions service, UCAS, has shown a widening gender disparity in applications, with the difference between the sexes hitting a record high.
As of the 15th January deadline, 343,930 women had applied to university for the 2016/17 academic year, some 94,140 more than men. This builds on a trend that has seen the gap between female and male applications increase steadily over the past 5 application periods, from 79,420 in 2012. Young women are now considered 36 percent more likely to apply to university, and when those from poorer backgrounds are considered, that figure rises to 58 percent.
The data also sheds light on the imbalance of successful applicants who started university last autumn, with women outnumbering men in 112 out of 180 degree subjects offered even though, according to population statistics, there should be about 5 percent more male students than female in each subject.
Application rates for 18-year-olds are at their highest levels, however, rising by 1 percent even in spite of a 2.2 percent decline in the 18-year-old population. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds are also 80 percent more likely to apply to higher education than in 2006, with figures this year growing by 5 percent in England, 2 percent in Scotland, and 8 percent in Wales.
Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, has underlined that the report shows that ongoing reforms within the education sector are working, and ‘more people [than ever] have the opportunity to get to university’.
Mary Curnock Cook, the UCAS Chief Executive, on the other hand, has questioned the ‘deafening policy silence’ on the issue, despite the clear evidence and press coverage. Curnock Cook, as quoted in The Guardian, stated: ‘Girls are doing better throughout primary, secondary and higher education than boys; poor, white boys are the most disadvantaged group in entry to higher education and the gap is getting bigger’. She has called for positive action to be taken to secure equal education outcomes for boys as concern about the gender gap grows.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has emphasised that ‘further measures to improve access to higher education, including from white working-class boys’ are being implemented, as the government has called for greater transparency on the university admissions process.