I’ve just received an update on the data which I commissioned from HESA on the gender breakdown of students ot Britain’s elite universities. I asked for this because one argument which I’ve heard against the idea that women are now dominant amongst HE students is that this was happening outside the so-called Russell Group institutions. Men were supposed to be still numerically superior in elite universities, and so still had as firm a grip as ever on top qualifications. If that had been the case, it might have done something to explain why women’s increased overall competences have had such a low impact on senior professional careers.
But the data last year showed that this was not the case, at least at first degree and Masters level. Women have overtaken men, by a substantial margin, in both categories across this group of elite universities.
The new figures, for 2011/12, confirm this. The female/male gap at Masters level has increased very sharply. For 2010 it was 11%; for 2012 it was 17% – 40334 to 33577. This is a really major widening of the gap, at the level at which people increasingly jump off into high-grade professional lives. Far more women than men are about to graduate from Britain’s elite universities qualified to this key Masters level.
More men than women still enrol at doctoral level, and in fact this male/female gap has even increased a little, from 19% to 22%. This is interesting. But for the purposes of careers outside academia, I’d say that Masters level figures are more important.
The gap at first degree level has not shifted, at 9% in favour of women.