Who studies at tertiary level?

Now that university students have their results from their year’s work, it is time to look at who is studying what subjects. Is it a surprise to find that women outnumber men by a long way at universities, polytechnics and other tertiary education institutions? For example, two years ago 89,000 women were studying for a Bachelor’s degree in New Zealand while there were only 59,000 men. This is a ratio of 3 women to 2 men. Fifty years ago, the ratio was 3 men to 1 woman. There were more women than men at post-graduate, diploma and certificate levels also in 2013. Big changes have happened in those fifty years. In fact they have been happening gradually for the last 15 years.

Not only has the ratio of women to men changed but also the subjects which women choose are different from many years ago. Women are moving into the fields of medicine, law, accounting, town planning, architecture, and veterinary science although men still dominate in computer science, engineering, technology, mathematics and sport. Women now dominate in education at all levels, from early childhood to tertiary level, as teachers rather than professors or principals.

However, women still do not earn the same as men, even when they work full time. Boards of directors are still mainly male although there is a move to include more women in management. These changes are happening in many other countries, not just New Zealand.

Listen to May 16 2015 for more on this topic.


• outnumber (v) – to be a larger number (compare outdo, outlive etc)
• veterinary science – become a vet (animal doctor)


Why do you think there are more women than men studying at tertiary level? Here are some possible suggestions: women teachers (no male models), solo mothers (no male models), men go into trades like carpentry and plumbing. Do you have some other suggestions?

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