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Universities: Admissions

Question for Department for Education

UIN 192280, tabled on 4 July 2023

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department has made an assessment of the reasons for the difference in the number of men and women entering university.

Answered on

12 July 2023

A person’s access to university should not be determined by their personal characteristics, but by their ambition and ability. We want to provide a ladder of opportunity for everyone to get the education and skills they need for job security and prosperity and to support levelling up across the country, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.

There are challenges related to gender representation in higher education (HE). Data shows that more than half (50.6%) of female pupils from state-funded schools in England entered HE by age 19 by 2020/21, compared to 38.4% of males. The gap in progression rates between males and females rose from 11.4 to 12.2 percentage points between 2019/20 and 2020/21.

We know that prior attainment is a key determinant of successful participation in HE, and that is why we have asked universities to take on a more direct role in driving up the standards in schools.

Our access and participation reforms announced in 2021 are playing a pivotal role in ensuring that students are supported to access and succeed on the right course for them. As part of this refresh of the system, the Office for Students (OfS) has asked more institutions to set targets for increasing the proportion of level 4 and 5 qualifications, and higher and degree apprenticeships that they offer, so that more students can access flexible and skills-related courses.

In March 2023, the OfS launched its Equality of Opportunity Risk Register (EORR). This will empower HE providers to deliver interventions for groups of students least likely to experience equal opportunity in HE settings by highlighting 12 key sector risks and the groups most likely to experience these, including gender. We welcome the EORR as a key marker for social justice which will help ensure that no student groups are left behind.