Gender and Subject Choice – Section 3C

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Section 3[c]

Vocational and Higher Education

Gender Differences in Subject Choice: Vocational Education

Gender, Subject Choice and Higher Education

Section 4 :

An introductory essay on Gender and Subject Choice which relies on data from Sections One and Two

Section 5:

Appendices on a range of related issues which are primarily for my own use

Gender Differences in Subject Choice: Vocational Qualifications

It is well known that working class male and female students are more likely to be unsuccessful at GCSE level. These students are perhaps also more likely to have been socialised into traditional gender roles and to believe [correctly] that their employment prospects ,although limited, are best in traditional male and female  occupations. Many relatively unsuccessful female students may therefore opt for subjects such as Domestic Science or Health Care partly because they do not infringe traditional views of femininity, partly because of better employment prospects in these areas and partly because the skills gained are seen as being useful for their future roles as housewives/mothers. Relatively unsuccessful boys are likely to opt for Computing and Technology options for much the same reasons.

Gender differences in choice of Apprenticeship schemes are very marked and can surely be explained in terms of the ongoing strength of traditional socialisation processes and continuing gender differences in employment opportunities. It could indeed be argued that choices of such schemes have much more  power than do A level and Degree level subject choices to confirm or undermine traditional perceptions of femininity and masculinity. For example  opting for a bricklaying apprenticeship is more likely than opting for a Physics degree to undermine a girl's traditional sense of here femininity ...if she has one.

The Equal Opportunities Site provides information on Modern Apprenticeships in 2002/3 which indicates the very high proportions of females opting for apprenticeships in the following sectors: early years and education, Hairdressing, Travel Services and Health and Social Care and the similarly large proportions of males opting for apprenticeships in the following sectors: It and Electronic Services, Engineering, Construction, Motor Industry, Plumbing and Electro-Technical services.  

Click here for  Review of  Engineering Skills  by Professor Perkins  which indicates that it is likely that traditional gender differences in socialisation have been [and remain] especially powerful in traditionally organised families and that parents on average still tend to offer different career advice to sons and daughters and that which indicates that Males remain far more likely than females to enrol on Higher and Advanced Engineering apprenticeships.

There are also significant gender differences in Applied GCE Advanced Level Subject Choice.

Numbers of l entries for Applied GCE Double Award Advanced levels are relatively small  but male and female  patterns of enrolment on these courses vary significantly


Gender, Subject Choice and and Higher Education

 Recent Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency  20117/18

Click here for HE  Student Enrolments and  Personal Characteristics 2012/13- 2 017/18 Females continue to be more likely than males to enrol for Higher Education Courses. Some students self- identify as "Other" rather than male or female

Click here for HE Enrolments by Subject Area and Sex. The gender differences in subject choice which occur at Advanced Level continue in Higher Education .

Students may like to analyse these data for themselves.

Gender Differences in Degree Results 2011/12- 2016/17

In 2013/14  females were  very slightly less likely than males to be awarded First Class degrees but significantly more likely than males to be awarded Upper Second Class degrees.

[Important update However in 2016/17 and 2017/18 the reverse was the case. [Click here for latest HESA 2019 data. Scroll down to Figure 17 and consult the relevant data] . Even more detailed information is available from the office for students . Clearly the analysis of examination statistics involves considerable technicalities and you should discuss with your teachers how best to approach these issues for examination purposes  It is likely that in Advanced Level Sociology examinations you will not need to write more than a few lines on this aspect of the topic

Useful Links

Click here for a report from HEP1 on the underachievement of young men in higher education and here for Guardian coverage of this report   May 2016

Click here for Mind The Gap: Gender Differences in Higher Education [Rachel Hewitt; 2020]

Click here for Women and STEM

Click here For Section 4