Women overtaking men in tertiary education says UN report

Female tertiary students now outnumber their male counterparts in two-thirds of countries and achieve higher completion and success rates than males, according to the newly released UNESCO World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education report.

The report, released by UNESCO to mark International Women’s Day, showed that female participation rates more than tripled since 1970, growing almost twice as fast as male participation. Global tertiary student numbers grew from 32 million to 165 million in the four decades to 2009.

The rates of female participation were generally higher in wealthy countries, but the report pointed to ‘notable exceptions’ including Lesotho, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and the Philippines, where female participation rates were relatively high despite being ‘middle income’ countries.

Despite the progress, the report found that male university students still outnumber women worldwide, because most young people live in countries that tend to favour men.

Men also continue to dominate doctoral-level and research positions, accounting for 56 per cent of PhD graduates and 71 per cent of researchers.

The report also notes that women’s increased participation in tertiary education has not translated into increased power, with men still dominating decision-making positions.

“As a result, well-educated women often end up in jobs where they do not use their full potential and skills,” it says.

It adds that whilst higher education tends to lead to higher income for women, they often need have more education than men to get the same jobs.

Significant gender differences also continue to exist in particular areas of study, with females dominating in life sciences and education and males in engineering, manufacturing, construction and computing.

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