gender gap university applications
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Gender gap increases as more females are applying to universities

Figures from UCAS show an increase in the university application gender gap, with around 98,000 more women than men applying by the end of June to start higher education in the autumn. With 269,660 male applicants, as of the end of last month men were outnumbered by the 367,300 women that have applied.

In contrast to this time last year, around 96,300 more women had applied, which was a reduction in the gender gap: in 2016 there were 103,910 more female applicants than male ones.

On the whole the statistics show a 2% decrease in applicants from 2017. Currently 636,960 students have applied for university and college places starting this autumn, of which 511,460 are UK based applicants.

In spite of this decrease, however, the application rates for UK 18-year-olds are one of the highest yet, with the application rate in England standing at 38.1%, the highest since 2009.

There has also been an increase in the number of students from outside the UK in comparison to recent years. There were 50,130 EU applicants in 2018, a 2% increase from last year’s figures. This trend can also be found in applicants from outside the EU with 75,380 students applying, representing a 6% increase from last year.

Previous reports of the gender gap in university applications has gained national attention in the media. In a BBC article from August of last year it was reported that female students were more likely to succeed in exams, which could be one of the reasons behind the disparity.

The UCAS chief executive at the time, Mary Curnock Cook, said that there should be a national effort to try and encourage boys to apply to higher education to address the issue of the increasing gender gap in applications.

In the foreword of a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute, entitled “Boys to Men: The underachievement of young men in higher education – and how to start tackling it”, Cook stated: “Boys are performing worse than girls across primary, secondary and higher education, not to mention apprenticeships, and the situation is getting worse.

On current trends, the gap between rich and poor will be eclipsed by the gap between males and females within a decade.”

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