No gender gap in higher education

© Hollandse Hoogte
Nearly 31 percent of both men and women in the Netherlands have a higher professional (HBO) or university (WO) qualification. This share has increased in recent years. In 2008, this was slightly over 25 percent. As of last year, the share of 15 to 74-year-old women with a higher education diploma almost matched that of men in the same age group. This is evident from new analyses conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Higher professional (HBO) or university (WO) qualification, 15-74 yrs (%)
 MenWomen
200827.323.4
200927.924.2
201028.524.8
201128.025.0
201228.525.7
201328.726.2
201428.727.3
201529.528.0
201629.628.7
201730.329.7
201830.730.6

Youngest generations: women more often highly educated than men

The share of higher education (HBO and WO) graduates is higher among women than men in the younger generations. Of all women aged 25 to 34 years, for example, nearly 52 percent have a higher education diploma. Among men, this is around 10 percentage points lower. The reverse holds true for the older generations. In the male population aged 65 to 74 years, 26 percent have a higher education qualification. This is close to 16 percent among their female peers. Many in the youngest generation are still attending education and are likely to obtain a higher education diploma in the future.

HBO or WO qualification by age, 2018 (%)
 MenWomen
15 to 24 yrs8.512.8
25 to 34 yrs42.351.8
35 to 44 yrs40.745.9
45 to 54 yrs34.532.5
55 to 64 yrs32.125
65 to 74 yrs26.115.6

Women form a majority at both HBO and WO level

Nowadays, it is much more common to continue studying and opt for a higher education programme. This is evident from the growing number of enrolments at HBO and WO level. In the academic year 2017/’18, there were altogether 374 thousand female and 357 thousand male students. One decade ago, this was 296 thousand and 277 thousand, respectively. Since the second half of the 1990s, the majority of HBO students have been female. A similar turning point was reached almost ten years later in academic (WO) education, where female students started to outnumber male students as of 2006/’07.

Number of higher education students (x 1,000)
 Men, HBOWomen, HBO Men, WOWomen, WO
1990/'91128.7113.9104.577.5
1991/'92132.2119.2105.482.4
1992/'93134.8123.9105.284.6
1993/'94137.4129.5102.584.4
1994/'95137.6132.5100.484.6
1995/'96137.8132.796.181.7
1996/'97137.6137.289.476.8
1997/'98138.6141.386.174.6
1998/'99141.4147.285.175.5
1999/'00146.6156.685.577.4
2000/'01149.8162.986.280.1
2001/'02153.9167.689.084.0
2002/'03154.4168.591.288.9
2003/'04161.0174.895.993.6
2004/'05166.3180.4100.399.2
2005/'06170.8186.0103.2102.7
2006/'07175.1191.6103.4105.2
2007/'08178.7196.1104.6108.1
2008/'09182.5201.2107.9112.6
2009/'10192.2211.0113.7119.4
2010/'11198.8217.8117.3125.0
2011/'12204.0220.0118.9126.5
2012/'13203.6218.1117.1124.2
2013/'14213.6226.7121.7128.5
2014/'15217.2229.2124.3131.4
2015/'16215.6227.0127.6133.6
2016/'17217.7228.9130.6137.4
2017/'18*221.4231.3135.9144.2

Health care studies most popular among women

The most common discipline among 15 to 74-year-old women with a higher education qualification is health and welfare (over 24 percent in 2018). This has barely changed over the past decade. The share of women with qualifications in education has decreased slightly. Most common among highly educated men - over 30 percent in 2018 - are law, administrative, trade-related and business studies. This share has increased slightly in recent years. Another nearly 20 percent of the male graduates had completed technology studies.

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