There is evidence that students have been learning at Oxford University as far back as 1096. It’s the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and it’s the second-oldest university in continuous operation in the whole world.
And, for the first time in its nearly 1,000-year history, it has finally given more undergraduate places to British women than men.
In total, 1,070 18-year-old British female applicants were awarded with places at the prestigious university in autumn 2017, compared to 1,025 men of the same age, according to data released by the university and college admissions body UCAS on Wednesday.
Among applicants of all age groups, despite applying for fewer undergraduate places than men, women won more offers to study.
It is the latest indicator that Oxford — which admitted women to its male colleges for the first time in 1974 — is getting better at gender equality.
It named its first female vice-chancellor, Prof. Louise Richardson, in 2016; of its 38 colleges, 10 now have women as their principals or heads, according to the Guardian; and Rhodes House — home of the Rhodes scholars — has also announced that its warden will be a woman for the first time this month.
Read more: Malala Is Going to Oxford University
Meanwhile the University of Cambridge took slightly fewer women than men, with 1,405 women compared to 1,440 men. However, according to the Guardian’s analysis, Cambridge made more offers to British women aged over 18, but fewer of them accepted the places.
UCAS published the breakdown for undergraduate admissions to 132 of the UK’s largest universities and colleges, separated into 18 year old applicants and applicants of all ages, including data on gender and economic background, to “help universities benchmark their performance in widening participation.”
“It’s important that those applying to university are confident that their applications will be considered on the basis of their merits,” said UCAS chief executive, Clare Marchant.
“Our data shows overall, admissions are fair,” she added. “Applicants from all backgrounds receive offers at rates which closely match the average for applicants to similar courses, with similar predicted grades.”
Oxford and Cambridge also showed improvement in admitting black British students. Oxford received a record 435 applications from all age groups, and offered 65 places — up from 55 in 2016, and 30 in 2012.
Cambridge made offers to 75 black British applicants, compared with 55 in 2016, and 40 in 2012.
While diversity is improving in the two most prestigious of Britain’s universities, however, there is still a great deal of work to be done nationwide, according to the data.
Students from the most advantaged areas of the country are still at least two times as likely to go to the majority of UK universities — 70 of the 132 institutions analysed — compared to those from disadvantaged areas. The report breaks down pupils into five groups, depending on various factors that relate to the probability of them entering higher education. So by "disadvantaged", the report is referring to the 20% of pupils who are least likely to enter higher education, based on factors including economic situation, and access to education, for example.
At 10 of the institutions analysed, the data is even worse. For every nine students from more advantaged backgrounds accepted, these institutions took just one student from a disadvantaged background.
The worst offender, according to analysis by Times Higher Education, was Imperial College London, where the entry rate for advantaged students was 11 times higher than their more disadvantaged peers.
After Imperial was Oxford, followed by King’s College London, University College London, Soas (part of the University of London), Bristol, Bath, Cambridge (which has fallen from 1st to 8th in the list since 2010), Durham, and Brunel.
Of the 10 worst performers, five were in London.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on gender equality and quality education. There are an estimated 130 million girls around the world who are currently missing out on education. And we want to get them all in school and learning. You can join us by taking action here.