A third of universities are carrying out outreach activities to tackle the gender gap in applications, according to the Office for Fair Access.
Data from UCAS shows that in the 2014/2015 application cycle 96,640 more women than men applied to study at university.
The gap has grown from 84,240 in 2011, prompting UK universities to introduce outreach programs aimed at encouraging men to apply. The activities include taster sessions and talks with role models and mentoring through local football clubs.
According to Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, the difference begins at GCSEs. He said: “girls tend to do much better than boys at GCSE and are more likely to go on to A-level.” The 2014 GCSE results showed that the females A*–C rate was 73.1% compared to just 64.3% for males.
However, boys continue to outperform girls in Maths by a small margin, whilst girls achieve much better grades in English.
Research released earlier this month, has also shown that the greatest disparity is amongst students from disadvantaged areas. The research, by the educational charity the Sutton Trust found that women from deprived backgrounds are “much more likely” to apply to university than men. Only 29% of white boys from poor families took A-levels.
A study by the OECD, an economic organisation, found that amongst students who struggle, boys are 50% more likely than girls to fall short of basic standards on reading mathematics and science. It is suggested that this is because girls read more than boys, something which is essential to school performance.
The National Literacy Trust has found that only “1 in 4 boys read outside of class every day,” something which is clearly negatively affecting their academic achievement.
The director of Fair Access to Higher Education, Professor Les Ebdon, told The Guardian, that difference in applications is part of a long-term trend in OECD countries. “There are particularly stark gaps in some courses – for example, there are significantly more women than men studying primary school teaching, and 60% of law students are women,” he said.“Conversely, there is still much to do to encourage young women to study Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects.”
One female student commented: “it’s great that we can recognise where outreach needs to be done, regardless of the gender of the student.”