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Recent years have shown that women are now moving through college and university at higher rates than men, with the result that they are now gaining more advanced degrees than those same men.

The current figures show that, overall, women hold slightly over thirty percent of degrees, while men have less at twenty nine percent. These figures are of the general population – the figures are much starker for the younger set (25-34) where women have nearly ten percent more bachelor’s degrees than do the men of the equivalent age.

This is a contrast from previous years, where only twenty six percent of women held degrees, to twenty eight percent of men (again, in overall population figures). The changes in how many women versus how many men take part in formal education is something which has a variety of answers, not all of which are verifiable.

Today’s Situation

There are a number of reasons why women are more likely to go into higher education than men, including opportunity, skills, and desire. Boys from disadvantaged areas are less likely to go into higher education than girls, even if both boys and girls received the same relief programmes; people who are working on these statistics should also take into account the changes which have been made to the university and college courses in recent years, which has resulted in a lot of female-dominated professions now requiring a degree of some sort. This has resulted in an increase in female entrants into various universities and colleges in pursuit of higher degrees.

In addition to the reasons given above, universities are still known for accepting fewer students from working class backgrounds than from other backgrounds. While this should logically affect both sexes equally, there is the additional barrier of working class culture, which tells boys and men that an education is perhaps not something worth attaining.

One particular reason for girls and women acquiring more degrees than boys and men is the simple fact that girls are more likely to succeed in the way they need to at school. It is only with good results in school that someone can move onto a university degree.

Universities are particularly interested in the overall educational skillset of their applicants, which is one area where men are consistently out-performed by women. Women are most likely to have acquired all their skills and qualifications themselves, leading to them actually being able to back up their skillset on paper. Men, being more like to commission a custom essay from various sources, are less likely to be able to show universities their skills, and so are perhaps less likely to be accepted for study.

Finally, women may be gaining more degrees than men because women have more incentive to do so. A man who has a degree will earn two times more than his counterpart with no further education; a woman, however, will earn up to three times as much.

Historical Perspective

Historically, of course, women have never been allowed to attain the same levels of achievement as their male peers, which means that any attempt to properly compare the two before around 1950 onwards is somewhat unfair. As a result, many people have suggested that the current trend in women out-performing men may simply be a result of women catching up to men, and doing what they have had hundreds of years to do.

One of the first colleges for women was Girton College in Cambridge, though it was not originally at Girton. Emily Davies set the college up in 1869 so as to give women who wanted to study university subjects, although she took care to offer only subjects which men studied at the time. Her thinking was that if the college offered any subjects which were commonly associated with women, then that would simply be another reason for people to look down on the college and its inhabitants. She reasoned that only allowing women to study ‘manly’ subjects would make the college more legitimate in the face of all the opposition.

In the beginning, there was a lot of opposition to the idea of women gaining higher education, from various angles. Religious figures spoke out against it as being against the natural order of things, since women were not supposed get ideas above their station. This was particularly the case with Davies’ College, because she specifically taught subjects which had until that point been entirely the jurisdiction of men. Doctors were concerned that too much learning would upset a woman’s brain (which was supposedly smaller than a man’s, and therefore less capable) and uterus. Even parents were reluctant to let their daughters go to the college because of the gossip which was being thrown around about the women who enrolled there.

Education and the Workplace

While the pay gap still, unfortunately, exists, women who go to university and come out with a degree are likely to be paid an amount which is three times more than they would otherwise receive. Given the gap between the number of men with degrees and the number of women with degrees, we can infer that women think the tuition fees (and resulting debt) for university is worth it for the additional money they will receive in the form of income later. The resulting in gender gap can then be explained by men being so confident in their ability to command a sufficient paycheque that they do not think an increase in income would offset the negatives of having time off for an education, or debt from that education.

Some women who go on to higher education cite their reasons as including the fact that people fought for this right – to have an education and to be taken seriously as a student. Because of this, they feel it is only right to take advantage of the educational opportunities that they have.

Wrapping it up

There is a number of reasons why there are now more women than men in higher education and with degrees. These include the changes within the culture which make it more conducive for women to go to higher education (they will gain more income if they do so, which in turn seems to make it more likely that they will see the advantages to taking on any debt necessary for completing their education), the ways in which women seem more reliable and desirable when it comes to higher education, and the possibility that the numbers of women in education are not significantly growing, but that the numbers are simply equalising in the face of women having the same educational opportunities as men.


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Why are women today more likely to go to Universities than men?
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