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Union calls for better careers advice and fairer admissions as university gender gap widens

17 December 2015 | last updated: 16 March 2021

UCU has said that improving careers advice and overhauling the university admissions system are key to ensuring that more young men and people from disadvantaged backgrounds enter higher education.

The union was responding to the latest report from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which shows that young women are now 35% more likely to enter higher education than young men. The gap was even more pronounced amongst the most disadvantaged groups, where young women are 51% more likely to go on to university than their male peers.

A 2014 survey by ComRes for UCU found that young men aged 13-17 were more likely than young women to say they didn't want to take on debt associated with higher education, and were less likely to seek out different sources of advice and guidance about their education options. It also showed that the most disadvantaged young people were less likely to have received any information or guidance about post-18 education opportunities.

UCU said that high-quality advice and guidance is crucial in ensuring that young men, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, are well informed about higher education opportunities.

The UCAS report also showed that the number of unconditional offers has more than doubled from last year to 23,400, with around 8% of 18 year old applicants receiving at least one unconditional offer. UCU has criticized the use of unconditional offers for favouring students in selective schools, which tend to predict higher grades, and has called for an overhaul [332kb] of the university admissions system.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'It is concerning that the gap between men and women going to university continues to grow, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged groups. Higher education is a great engine for social mobility, but too many young men are missing out because they are not well informed about their options. It's also worrying to see a sharp rise in the number of unconditional offers based on predicted grades rather than actual achievement.

'If the government really wants to level the playing field for university, it needs to ensure that young people have easy access to the information and guidance which allows them to make the best decisions, and put in place a fair admissions system which is based on actual grades rather than optimistic predictions.'

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