The acting chief of UCAS, the UK’s premier University Admissions service, has pressed universities to target white men in their upcoming admissions process.

Mary Curnock Cook made the call after new figures emphasised that the gap between men and women enrolling at UK universities is steadily increasing.

According to data from 2015’s autumn intake, the UK’s entry rate for women in higher education has increased twice as fast as for men.

Figures demonstrate that Britain’s female population is 35 percent more likely to go to university than their male counterparts, and if universities were to try and balance the number of each sex enrolled at university this year, they would need to recruit another 36,000 men.

Generally, data shows that UK universities were recruiting record numbers this autumn, with approximately 532,300 acceptances, an increase of 3.1 percent on figures from 2014. However, the data also demonstrates that women are ahead in the recruitment stakes in every university category.

The figures show that people of white descent were the least likely to enrol on a university course, with only 28 percent gaining entry, compared with 58 percent for Chinese, 41 percent for Asians, 37 percent for those of Black ethnicity and 32 percent of mixed-race students.

“It’s welcome news that record numbers of students secured places this year, including record numbers from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Jo Johnson, Minister for UK Universities. “That’s why we have set out an ambitious programme to build on recent progress and achieve the Prime Minister’s goal of doubling the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds going into university by 2020.”

The entry rate increase for white students stood at 0.6 percent, which is “smaller than for any other ethnic group and thus widening the gap between them”, so the report states.

The gender gap has swelled in even the most prestigious universities, with women 18 percent more likely to enter a distinguished university in 2006, compared to 28 percent in 2015.

Ms Cook claims the widening gap could potentially hinder the UK’s progress in eliminating inequality. “With further increases in the gap between men and women entering higher education, we can now see clearly that concentrating outreach efforts on young men, particularly white men, could make a significant contribution to closing the rich-poor gap,” she said.

Despite worries that male higher education enrolments could continue to decline, many education professionals are thrilled about the sector’s rising accessibility for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “This report shows that, in 2015, 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds entered higher education than ever before.

“The results of this work transform individual lives while also benefitting our economy and society as a whole.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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