As the University of Oxford offered more undergraduate places to British women than men for the first time last year, in its more than 1,000-year history, the world takes a step in the right direction towards gender equality. 

Of the total figure, female sixth-formers also outnumbered their male peers, according to data published by UCAS, the university and college admissions body.

A total of 1,070 18-year-old female UK applicants to the University of Oxford were admitted to undergraduate courses in autumn 2017, compared to 1,025 men of the same age. Women won more offers and places after applying in record numbers.

Among applicants of all ages from the UK, women also received more offers to study as undergraduates than men despite fewer applying than their male counterparts, as quoted in this article from The Guardian.

The shift in undergraduate admissions is the latest of several taken by Oxford in recent years. The first of the university’s male colleges admitted women in 1974. Others followed suit in the rest of the 1970s and 1980s.

Ten of Oxford’s 38 colleges have women as their principals or heads, while the university appointed its first woman as vice-chancellor, Prof Louise Richardson in 2016. Rhodes House, which runs the university’s Rhodes scholarships, has this month announced its first woman as warden.

“While it’s too early to call this a trend based on one year’s numbers, it is a welcome sign of progress for female applicants to Oxford,” a spokesperson for Oxford said. For the rest of the world, it is a signal to take larger steps towards gender equality and levelling the education playing field for women.

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The UCAS figures only included UK-based applicants, but not EU or international students. In previous years non-UK admissions to Oxford have seen a majority of men gaining places – meaning that overall it is likely to have admitted more men than women undergraduates.

Oxford’s ancient rival, Cambridge, offered more places to male school leavers by a slim margin – 1,440 to 1,405 – after attracting record numbers of applications within the UK. Cambridge made more offers to British women aged over 18, although fewer took up the places.

After being heavily criticised over its track record on attracting and admitting black British students, Oxford’s admissions showed a slight improvement. Out of a record 435 applicants of all ages, 65 were offered places, compared with 55 the year before and 30 in 2012. Cambridge made offers to 75 black British applicants last year, compared with 55 in 2016 and 40 in 2012.

The equalities data from UCAS showed an improvement among the more selective universities in recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


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