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Women choosing computing degrees in record numbers – BCS

The number of young women taking computer science degrees is growing faster than for any other UK university subject, new figures from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT show.

Computing degrees have seen a 23 per cent growth in accepted applications from women since 2019; according to new analysis by Swindon-based BCS. This is a higher percentage rise than for any other UCAS subject group.

The ‘surging’ increase is particularly marked amongst 18-year old women taking computing at university, up by 47 per cent between 2019 and 2022, BCS found. The growth rate for 18-year old men over the same period was lower, at 29 per cent.

BCS said the rise was ‘striking and important’ but cautioned that the number of women starting computing degrees this year (6,450) is still low compared with the number of men (27,735).

Male students still outnumber female students in computer science by 4.3 to 1 this year, but the gap has closed slightly from in 2021 (4.7 to 1).

The total number of students placed on undergraduate degrees in computing across the UK has increased by 11 per cent on last year, with 34,185 people accepted to start courses.

This is the second largest percentage increase of any subject, according to BCS, which analysed new end-of-cycle university admissions data from UCAS.

The overwhelming majority of Computing entrants to higher education undergraduate courses come from state sector schools across the UK. Consistently, only two to three per cent originate from the independent sector, with an additional eight per cent coming from further education.

Earlier this year, Computing A level entries also rose by 41 per cent across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, since 2019, and by 43 per cent in England alone, the highest increase of any subject.

Computing Higher entries have also risen by eight per cent in Scotland since 2019, and by 13 per cent at Advanced Higher.

The number of female students awarded an A grade or better at A level Computing in England has increased by 20.1 percentage points since 2019 and female entries have risen by 64 per cent from 2019 to 2022 in England and 43 per cent in Wales.

Julia Adamson, MD for education and public benefit at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “The surging growth in popularity of computing degrees, especially with young women, is striking and important for the future success of fields like artificial intelligence.

“The UK urgently needs a diverse influx of talented, ethical professionals to develop world-class capacity in areas like cyber security, data science and AI.

“The gender gap in computing is closing at degree level, but it’s still far too wide and we need to improve on women making up 22 per cent of tech specialists.

“Diverse teams make every member of that team a better engineer, better able to design and deliver inclusive solutions which meet the needs of society.”

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