More women are taking degrees than men, but women remain poorly represented in STEM subjects and senior academic positions

A report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has warned of a widening gender gap in UK higher education achievement, with girls outperforming boys in terms of university entry. Science and technology courses, on the other hand, still suffer from the opposite problem, with low female participation.

In Boys to men: the underachievement of young men in higher education – and how to start tackling it, figures show that, overall, young women are now 35% more likely to go to university than men. Although entry numbers for both sexes is increasing year-on-year, in 2015 this increase was much greater for women than it was for men. HEPI’s director Nick Hillman called it a ‘serious problem’ that needed addressing.

Looking at the data for science, technology, engineering and maths paints a different picture. Men outnumber women both on science and technology undergraduate courses. Men made up 60% of those studying physical sciences degrees in 2014–15 and 53% of those on postgraduate research degrees. And the report also highlighted that women were still underrepresented in senior university appointments, with women making up a third of senior academic appointments and one fifth of professors.

HEPI says policymakers both inside and outside universities need to do more to address these issues.