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Is going to university a waste of time?

Fri 25 February 2011

, Alberta Opoku, LEAP

In 1871 Aletta Jacobs became the first woman in Dutch history that officially enrolled in university.  140 years later Dutch students march against education cuts. And in the UK, half of the women graduates in Cosmopolitan’s Angry Generation survey regret going to university.

Student fees are rocketing, unemployment rates among graduates are high and job security is faltering. These factors are forcing young women to lose faith in the higher education system, reveals Cosmopolitan's ‘The Angry Generation' survey. The survey looked at the careers, financial situation and future prospects of women in 2011.

No Dream Jobs
Only 14% feel their job is ‘very secure', with the majority confessing that landing their dream job is almost impossible - 25% can't get a foot on the career ladder of choice. Within that group, two-thirds are stuck in jobs that don't interest them at all, the survey reveals. When it comes to financial security for the future only 22% of the respondents have a pension.


Most Students are Women
But there’s also some good news on women’s financial and educational prospects. Take a look at this Canadian study by Marc Frenette and Klarka Zeman about why most university students are women.

Differences Increase
The authors first provide a profile of girls and boys from birth to age 15. They note that, in general, boys begin life lagging behind girls on a number of physical, cognitive and emotional dimensions. As they progress through the school system, the gender differences tend to increase even more. By age 15, when many youth begin to think about life after high school, girls outperform boys in school by a large margin.

Frenette and Zeman examine the extent to which the advantages held by girls at age 15 account for the large gender gap in university participation at age 19. Their analysis suggests that 76.8% of the gender gap in the university participation rate can be accounted for by differences in observable characteristics between boys and girls.

The Characteristics
In order of importance, the main factors are differences in: school marks at age 15; standardized test scores in reading at age 15; study habits; parental expectations; and the earnings advantage of university graduates over those with no more than a high school education.

The data for the study were drawn from the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS), Cycle 3, which collected information from YITS participants in 2003, when they were 19 years old.