Women enrolled at UK universities this academic year outnumbered their male counterparts by nearly 58,000 according to new figures released by UCAS, with female students dominating the disciplines of law, medicine and biology at undergraduate level.
UCAS data from their analysis of 2014-15 university admissions shows that, of the 512,000 people accepted onto higher education courses in the autumn, more than 285,000 were women while only 227,300 were men. Figures also show that the overall gap between female and male enrolment has widened steadily each year since 2008, at which point the difference was 47,200.
Statistics released last week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) also support the apparent rise of women in academia, with 72% of females receiving at least an upper-second degree in the 2013-14 academic year compared with only 67% of males.
Female students are also particularly well-represented across some of the most competitive undergraduate programmes allied to medicine and dentistry, with 5,000 women accepted in 2014 compared with 3,800 men.
However, while women have shown strength in numbers across academia so far this year, they are still outnumbered by male students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, with 20,300 more men studying engineering and 17,300 studying computer science.
Gender imbalance was not the only issue raised by the most recent UCAS data: figures indicate that the 45,000 UK students from Asian ethnic groups and the 30,000 from black ethnic groups were the highest numbers ever accepted through UCAS. Additionally, a record 36,000 UK applicants who declared a disability were accepted by their chosen universities, thus indicating an increase of 3,700 on the previous year.
UCAS’ detailed breakdown of subjects being studied indicates a further fall in the number of students enrolled on European languages and literature courses, with the total number of successful applicants dipping below 4,000. Non-European language enrolment is also suffering, with only 140 overall studying Chinese languages.
British Council Director of Strategy John Worne took an optimistic view of UCAS’ language statistics, commenting:
“One good piece of news is some students are opting to study a language alongside another degree subject- more should, it’s a particularly attractive combination for employers.”
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