Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Eurostat on disciplinary gender dominance in higher education

Recent EUROSTAT findings show, consistently across all member states, there is a higher proportion of female than male graduates in higher education. Out of almost 5 million tertiary education graduates in 2014 women represented 58% (men 42%), pointing to an increasingly clear trend that is developing in terms of gender imbalances in completion rates across the union.  Looking at gender distribution in relation to the subject level, further disparities in the representation of woman and men in different disciplinary arenas in higher education emerge. The data reveals:

  • A clear overrepresentation of women in Education, making up 80% of graduates in the field Europe wide, and representing as much as 97% of Romania's graduate body in Education.
  • Health and Welfare, with 75% female graduates presents a further subject area where gender effects are experienced by all member states. Ranging from 65% in Cyprus up to 90% of woman engulfing the disciplinary field in Romania.
  • In contrast, males dominated the education fields of Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction, accounting for 73% of graduates across Europe and as high as 85% in Poland. 
  • Nearly three in five graduates were male in the Science, Mathematics and Computing fields, across most member states, except Romania. Placing well above the EU average (58%), the Netherlands saw the greatest male dominance in the in this subject area (78%).

On the national level, the greatest gender imbalance could be observed in Estonia and Poland where females made up as much as 66% of the overall graduate body. Currently, the most balanced gender ratio, with the graduate body being split almost equally in half  between male and female, is exhibited by Germany and Ireland.

Moreover the new EUROSTAT data reveals preferential patterns, beyond gender, for different subject fields in the overall student body, at European and national level. The largest share of students across Europe was found to graduate in Social science, Business and Law – and particularly popular in countries as Bulgaria, Luxemburg and Cyprus with up to almost half of graduates completing studies in these disciplines. Engineering, Manufacturing and construction; Health and Welfare; Humanities and Arts; Science, Mathematics and Computing; and finally Education follow, in this order, in the ranks of graduate shares at European level.    

Source: EUROSTAT tertiary education graduates by sex

These findings converge with an increasing body of insights, pointing out a growing need to secure the completion rates of young males in higher education. Emerging gender imbalance in graduation rates and prevailing gender dominance in the disciplinary arena, permeate across national borders, and call for refined conceptions and approaches to advancing equitable higher education landscapes across Europe.

EUROSTAT – Tertiary education graduates