Response to the publication of the SFC’s Gender Action Plan

Universities Scotland has responded to the publication of the Scottish Funding Council’s Gender Action Plan: Interim Report today, Tuesday 23 February.

Universities Scotland’s Director, Alastair Sim said:


“Universities don’t want to see underrepresentation of any kind. It is in no-one’s interests to have certain subjects, and so certain careers, dominated by one gender or another. We have to tackle this positively. We’ve got to start young and work to remove gender stereotyping and negative social attitudes that do so much to shape, and often to limit, young people’s choices. We need to get more young people inspired enough to make subject choices that are different to their peer group until their peer group catches up with them. Universities play an important role in working with schools, and with parents, to get girls excited about engineering and boys excited about careers in teaching and nursing.

“There is a clear read-across from gender imbalanced Higher qualifications, applications to university, and the gender imbalance on certain degree courses. In many cases the imbalance narrows slightly upon entry to university. We need to keep admissions fair for all so if we are to redress gender imbalances Scotland needs to put in the ground-work to shift attitudes and bring about a major change in the pattern of applications from men and women. We are pleased to have the Funding Council’s support for our continued work to tackle gender imbalances and very pleased to engage with them on this action plan. It would be useful to discuss whether setting targets for universities at a national level is the most positive and realistic way to achieve a lasting societal change in attitude and behaviour amongst young people.”



In some cases where gender imbalances exist within degree subjects, the gender imbalance has narrowed relative to imbalances at Higher level as a result of the applications and admissions process. For example:

  • In 2013 the gender imbalance in Higher Physics was 71% male: 29% female. Acceptances to physics at undergraduate level in universities in Scotland through UCAS were 61% male: 39% female.
  • In 2013 the gender imbalance in Higher Art & Design was 81% female: 19% male but acceptances to undergraduate degree courses in Art and Design at Scottish universities through UCAS were 64% female: 36% male.
    Sources: Highers data is taken from the SQA. Undergraduate acceptances data is taken from UCAS.