Women will account for more than 70% of higher education students in Austria and England and for an average of 59% across the developed world by 2025, a new OECD report indicates. The report, Higher Education to 2030, said in 2005, 55% of higher education students in the 30 OECD nations were women and women accounted for 60% or more of higher education enrolments in Norway, Sweden and Iceland. But by 2025, 10 nations would have student bodies that were 60% or more female and the OECD average would be 59%, the report said.
Only Japan, Korea and Turkey were expected to still have fewer women students than men by 2025. Japan's student population was expected to be 48% female, Korea's 40% and Turkey's 43% by 2025 - projections that included minimal growth from present figures.
Finland was the only nation with a projected decline in the proportion of female students, from 54% in 2005 to 53% in 2025, while Italy and Portugal were the only nations with no projected change to their 2005 levels of 57% and 56% respectively.
The report said there were more male than female students in the OECD until the 1990s, but since then inequalities to the detriment of men had emerged in almost all OECD nations.
"If past trends were to continue, the inequalities to the detriment of men would be well entrenched at the aggregate level in 2025, with 1.4 female students for every male. In some countries (Austria, Canada, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom) there could be almost twice as many female students as male."
The report said it was not clear what social and economic impacts the gender inequality might have and it would take decades to restore equality: "If such inequalities continue to increase strongly, is it prudent to wait for their social consequences to emerge before trying to remedy them?"
"At the very least, there is a need now to review policies on educational equality between the sexes by taking note of the fact that it is not now women who are necessarily at a disadvantage, and also by paying attention to the achievement of boys."
* John Gerritsen is editor of NZ Education Review
View the OECD report
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