Higher tuition fees widening gender gap
The increase in tuition fees was introduced in 2012 where universities can charge up to £9,000 per year for tuition.
In areas where fewer young people have been accepted to university, the gap between men and women has widened significantly under the new tuition fee regime.
A report by The Independent Commission on Fees (ICOF) found that the number of men from working-class areas accepted to university fell by 1.4 per cent while the number of women rose by 0.9 per cent between 2012 and 2010.
Increasingly more young women than men have been going to university since the mid-nineties; women are now a third more likely to go on to higher education than men.
The report noted 1,700 fewer men from areas of the UK where university participation is the lowest were accepted for places in 2012 than in 2011, representing a 5.4 per cent decline in the number going to university.
The fall in the number of girls going to university from the same areas in the same period was smaller, at 3.7 per cent.
The change in the gender gap in the highest participation areas was 1.6 per cent from 2010 to 2012, compared to 2.3 per cent in those areas with the lowest.
This fall in acceptances did not have a disproportionate impact on less priviedged areas of the UK overall because there is an increase in young women from those areas attending university.
However, while the number of men accepted to university from the highest participation areas fell by 6.4 per cent between 2010 and 2012, 20,000 more males from those neighborhoods still go to university than their peers from the lowest.
Will Hutton, chair of the ICOF, suggested that the higher fees may be having a disproportionate impact on men and that the government, universities and schools might want to consider if “specific measures” are necessary to address concerns around this issue.
“Today’s report shows that the first year of fees produced a worrying widening in the university gender gap.
“In working class areas, there has been a decline over two years in the number of boys accepted for university, while the number of girls accepted has risen.
This is particularly worrying, because women are already a third more likely to go to university than men, and the danger is that the higher fees may be having a disproportionate impact on men, who are already under-represented at university.”
However, the report concluded that the introduction of higher fees was too recent for “strong conclusions” to be drawn from data at this stage.
The report also noted that the impact of the increased fees is difficult to differentiate from many other variables affecting acceptances generally.
It noted that the gender differential, particularly in less privileged areas, remains a potential cause of concern and that the ICOF will carefully monitor the data for the coming year as that data emerges.