While male enrolment is still higher than females in tertiary institutions, the ratio is increasingly narrowing.
Of the 407,516 students enrolled into Undergraduate, Master’s Degree and PhD programmes during the 2015/2016 academic year, 240,377 were males representing 54 percent – against 167,139 females representing 46 percent.
The figure, which covers public and private tertiary institutions including Colleges of Education and Specialised/Professional Institutions, shows an increase of 10 percent since the 2012/2013 academic year.
In the 1990/1991 academic year, data on enrolment indicate that only one-fifth of students enrolled were women; but this ratio has improved gradually, reaching 36 percent in the 2012/13 academic year.
A breakdown of the data shows that males constituted 59 percent of undergraduate enrolments in the 2015/2016 academic year, from a total of 385,609 students.
And it appears the higher the level, the fewer the women one is likely to find.
For instance, when it comes to master’s degree/MPhil enrolment, 7,449 females representing 36 percent from a total of 20,447 students were enrolled, while only 30 percent female students were enrolled into PhD programmes across all institutions of higher learning in the country.
According to the National Accreditation Board – the body responsible for maintaining quality standards in higher education – the ratio of females enrolled in public institutes of higher education was 41 percent, while the private sector recorded 42% female enrolment.
Meanwhile, women make up about 52 percent of the population aged 15-49 – the typical period of life in which a person is likely to be pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies at a university.
The data show a lot needs to be done to retain girls in school up to the highest level they can attain, if the gap is to be narrowed further in good time.
The situation is comparatively different in other countries such as the United States, where there are more women enrolled in public universities than men; and in the United Arab Emirates, where 80 percent of university students are female – one of the highest ratios in the world.