Oxford University has admitted more women than men for the first time in its 1000 year history.
The figures, released by UCAS, also note that female sixth-formers outnumbered male sixth-formers when receiving places – despite the fact that fewer women applied than men. 1,070 18 year old women took places at Oxford in September 2017 compared to 1,025 18 year old men. The University of Cambridge offered more places to women than men but fewer accepted, meaning that more men were admitted – 1,440 men to 1,405 women.
It was as late as 1974 that the first of the male Oxford colleges started to accept women, and gender segregation was only fully abolished at the university in 2015, when the all-male St Benet’s Hall began accepting women.
Other areas of diversity improved less markedly. 435 black students applied to Oxford – a record number – and ten more were accepted than in 2016. Overall, 65 places were offered to black students; 75 were offered at the University of Cambridge.
“Our data shows overall that admissions are fair. Applicants from all backgrounds receive offers at rates which closely match the average for applicants to similar courses, with similar predicted grades,” said Clare Marchant, the chief executive of UCAS.
“However, these data also show that, while progress continues to be made in widening participation, particularly at universities with a higher entry tariff, large disparities remain between the groups entering higher education generally, and at individual universities and colleges.”
Oxford University has been taking steps to improve conditions for female students – with mixed results. Last summer, students were given 15 minutes longer in maths and computer science exams because “female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure” and male students had been achieving more first-class degrees than women.
And though the scores did improve, women only achieved more 2:1s than 2:2s – meaning the scores only improved slightly. Critics argued that the measures “addressed nothing in the root causes of the score differences”, which start in primary school. Teacher bias was found to impact children as young as four – and was an early indicator of both confidence and interest.
Image: Vadim Sherbakov