Scottish universities have been told to accept more male students in order to address the long-term gender gap in higher education.
The Scottish Funding Council, the public body responsible for the allocation of taxpayer funding to universities and researchers, recommended in their Gender Action Plan that the gap between male and female entrants into undergraduate degree courses should be reduced to five per cent by 2030.
Last year in Scotland male students made up just 42.5 per cent of Scotland’s 141,000 undergraduates, compared with 57.5 per cent who were female. At the University of Glasgow, this imbalance is slightly more prominent. 41% of the 26,815 matriculated students last year were male while 59% were female.
Whilst the gap between male and female participation has closed in the past five years from 16% to 13.8%, it has been growing since the early 1990s. Working class young men, in particular, are singled out as having been increasingly disadvantaged, as studies show that in Scotland 8.5% fewer young men from the most deprived areas participate in undergraduate study than young men from the least deprived areas.
The SFC reported, “Boys from deprived areas of Scotland are far less likely to attend university than those from affluent areas, impacting on their career options, future salaries, and depriving them of other opportunities available to those who do go to university.
“In addition, many courses in both sectors are heavily gendered: that is, their students tend to be mainly men or mainly women. Such imbalances predominantly come about through the gender stereotypes that all too frequently determine subject choice.”
The report acknowledges that this policy will disadvantage prospective female students, saying: “We recognise that to address male underrepresentation could create displacement of some potential female students.
“In an effort to address imbalances at a subject, institution and national level we aim to ensure a holistic approach considering both male and female underrepresentation. This is not about creating exactly equal balances at all levels but about recognising that specific action is required to tackle barriers preventing some individuals from the opportunity to both participate in education as well as enter and succeed in careers and workplaces in Scotland and beyond. With a focus on those who are from deprived backgrounds, we hope to concentrate action in a way that is fairest in prioritising those least likely to enter university. We will work closely with universities to understand the impact of this approach.”
The SFC previously announced that Scottish colleges and universities would be compelled to meet gender quotas for the recruitment of male and female students in particularly gendered areas of study, such as engineering and primary teaching.