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Record number of women attending UK universities – UCAS

ByLily Settari

Feb 3, 2015

This academic year saw a record number of women entering into universities nationwide.

The latest admissions statistics, published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), show that the gender gap between new male and female students has never been so high.

In autumn, 512,000 women started university. That was the first time the half-million mark was exceeded.

85 per cent of acceptances to education courses were women, as were 81 per cent of acceptances onto nursing courses.

Greg Clark MP, minister for universities, science and cities, emphasised that it is on the government’s agenda “to ensure that there is a place at university for all those that have the aspiration and capability”.

Briana Pegado, president of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA), is delighted with the statistics.

She said: “More women at university helps us break barriers. It challenges the patriarchal assumption that women are not trained or skilled enough to climb the ladder.”

However, so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) still have an overwhelming majority of male students.

Currently, 87 per cent of computer science students and 85 per cent of engineering students are men.

Considering the persistent gender gap in certain subjects, the government’s efforts to encourage women to take up higher education have not yet been fully realised.

Pegado said: “We need to continue to break the glass ceiling and fight for equality.

“I feel that STEM subjects are still extremely gendered and many women do not feel comfortable studying these subjects or when they do they face many unconscious biases during their degree study.

“[Record female intake] helps us continue to challenge these preconceived notions and change our society for the better.”

Dr Elinor Mason is a philosophy lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and one of her research interests is feminism.

According to Mason, these statistics “should not be hailed as a feminist victory.”

She says that the academic development of men is less promising.

She said: “I am pleased that women are doing well, but I cannot be pleased at the news that men are doing less and less well: the possible explanations for that are all disturbing, and we should be thinking about what we are doing wrong in raising and educating our boys.

“One worry is that what is happening is that, as a society, our gender stereotyping has changed in some ways, but we are still stereotyping and limiting the horizons of both boys and girls.

“For example, it seems possible that an old stereotype of girls as obedient and pliable is what is feeding into good exam results, and an old stereotype of boys as rebellious and independent is what explains their poorer results.”


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