Study success in higher education: male versus female students

Research output: Working paper

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Study success is an important topic for countries concerned with the effectiveness of their higher education system. A closer look at study success outcomes suggests there are noticeable differences between male and female students: in terms of enrolment, study choices, drop‐out rates, retention rates and completion rates. On study success indicators female students are outperforming male students. Through a literature review, insights from European experts, and case studies at seven Dutch higher education institutions, this paper looks into the extent of the problem experience, the by the literature suggested explanations, and the policy instruments implemented to bridge the gender gap in study success. The problem experience differs by country, yet most European experts see aspects where female students are performing better. On the institutional level, it are mainly specific study programmes (e.g. primary teacher education) that experience study success differences and where gender‐specific policies have been introduced, such as curricula made more in line with characteristics of male students. However, the effectiveness of the implemented instruments is largely unknown. The same outcome is found in the literature review: policies can address, for example, learning environments, but the effect is unknown. More recent insights into differences in brain development between males and females, suggest that alternative learning environments might be more in line with female non‐ cogitative skill, which they developed earlier. This is seen as a strong reason for further research and continues consideration of possible effects on the gender gap in higher education policy reforms.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCenter for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS)
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameCHEPS Working Paper series
ISSN (Electronic)2589-9716


  • METIS-320817
  • IR-97449


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