11 December 2017 • HOP, Matthijs van Schie
Higher education really is attracting girls to technology
Unlike senior secondary vocational education institutions, universities of applied sciences and universities are doing a good job of attracting women to their technology degree programmes. Today, almost a quarter of technology students in higher education are women.
The popularity of technology degree programmes has shot up in recent years: the business sector needs technicians, so these graduates have many job opportunities. The Dutch government also likes to see more women going into technology: it’s good for both emancipation and the economy.
Higher education seems to be well on its way in this regard, but senior secondary vocational education lags behind. ‘Girls don’t want to become electricians’, was the headline in one of the Dutch dailies. In fact, even fewer girls are heading in this direction: while 45,000 enrolled in technology degree programmes five years ago, only 42,000 did so last academic year.
Senior secondary vocational education has reason to be jealous of higher education. In 2008, women enrolled in technology degree programmes at universities of applied sciences made up 15% of the student population, and this was 18% for universities. Eight years later, this was 21 and 24 percent. Last academic year, 18,000 women and 70,000 men were enrolled in a technology degree programme at a university of applied sciences. At the universities, this was more than 9,400 women and 29,000 men.
Why is higher education doing so much better? ‘It all starts in secondary school,’ says Erica Wortel, spokesperson for the Platform Bèta Techniek, a platform supported by the Ministry of Education to interest more young people in the exact sciences and technology. ‘In recent years, they have been actively encouraging students in higher general vocational education and pre-university education to enrol in exact science subject clusters.’
Consequences for universities of applied sciences
This isn’t happening as much in lower secondary school education since these pupils have had to choose a direction much earlier. ‘Back then, pupils might consider technology less of an option because they are thinking less of their future at a younger age.’ Ultimately, the degree programmes chosen by senior secondary vocational education students will also affect universities of applied sciences. Last year, almost one in five of them transferring to a university of applied sciences had graduated from a technology degree programme. The vast majority of them were men.