Science degrees are failing to appeal to sixth-form girls

Fewer 16- to 17-year-old female students are choosing to study STEM subjects compared with boys, according to new research 

January 17 2018
Science research

Girls are still failing to show as much interest as boys are in studying sciences at university, despite the surge in popularity of STEM subjects at A level, according to a study of more than 100,000 sixth-formers.

Computer science, mechanical engineering, maths, medicine and physics are all in the top 10 preferences of degree programmes for boys but only maths and medicine made it into the top 10 for female students, according to research conducted by Unifrog, a platform to help students pick courses and universities.

The behaviour of 107,979 students on the site between 1 December 2016 and 31 November 2017 was analysed to find out the subjects and university preferences that students were searching for.

Based on this research the 10 most popular courses for males (in order of popularity) are:

  1. Economics
  2. Law
  3. Medicine
  4. Computer science
  5. Maths
  6. History
  7. Accounting and finance
  8. Mechanical engineering
  9. Psychology
  10. Physics

The 10 most popular courses for females are:

  1. Psychology
  2. Law
  3. Medicine
  4. History
  5. Geography
  6. Criminology
  7. English
  8. Midwifery
  9. Architecture 
  10. Maths

The research also revealed where students were wanting to study – and the University of Leeds was the most desirable place to study, followed by Exeter, Edinburgh, Bristol and Durham. 

Students were also more likely than ever to consider studying at a university that is closer to home. According to the analysis, sixth-formers from the East Midlands have a preference for the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, while students from London preferred UCL or King's College. Potential undergraduates from the North East were giving greater consideration to Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham universities. 

After exam grades required, the most influential factors in choosing a university are league table rankings, average starting salaries after graduation, graduate job opportunities, quality of social life, dropout rate, satisfaction among current students, number of applications per place, distance from home, hours of lectures and cost of accommodation. 

Alex Kelly, the co-founder of Unifrog said: “Students have to consider a huge number of factors before submitting their Ucas application and things can appear pretty overwhelming at times. Our data shows just how important league table rankings are when people make decisions." 

Read more: Women in STEM: looking forward to equality


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