Report: Education System ‘Letting Men Down,’ Women 75% More Likely to Go to University

Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their graduation photograph at the University of Birmingham degree congregations on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England.
Christopher Furlong/Getty

A report from Britain’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) indicates that the decline in the number of boys going to university is a result of the increase in female teachers in Britain’s schools.

UCAS (Undergraduate Courses at University and College) Chief Mary Curnock Cook said that the “dominance” of women in the teaching profession was a key factor in men choosing not to go to university.

Writing in the report, Cook said that “many commentators, including me, have suggested that the dominance of women in the school workforce may play a role in boys’ under performance relative to girls.”

“While this report does not find evidence to support the theory, I remain instinctively convinced that, as in any other area of life, gender imbalance will itself generate further imbalance,” she claimed.

“Just as the performance of boys at GCSE has declined relative to girls, so the proportion of female teachers has increased,” she added. Currently out of the 445,000 teachers in British state education, 74% of them are women.

“‘If this differential growth carries on unchecked, then girls born this year will be 75% more likely to go to university than their male peers,” Cook explained.

The report also found that at around 5/6th of British universities, there are more female than male students, and only two institutions plan to tackle this gender imbalance. It also found that “poor white men have the worst record of all” in obtaining higher education.

However, the report said a possible reason for the findings could be that typically female-friendly subjects such as nursing and teaching did not previously require undertaking a full degree programme.

The findings will come as a shock to feminist academics who have long argued that women are inherently disadvantaged by the education system, as the study calls for more institutions to set targets to improve male recruitment.

HEPI director and the co-author of the report Nick Hillman concluded, “Nearly everyone seems to have a vague sense that our education system is letting young men down, but there are few detailed studies of the problem and almost no clear policy recommendations on what to do about it.”

“Young men are much less likely to enter higher education, are more likely to drop out and are less likely to secure a top degree than women,” he argued. “That is a serious problem we need to tackle.”

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