China's Universities See More Women Students

April 16, 2012
Editor: Sun Xi

Women college students at their graduation ceremony []

Women college students at their graduation ceremony []

The current male to female ratio of Hangzhou High School students of high academic performance in admission is roughly 2:3. The capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, the city has seen an increase in high-performing female students, with the ratio being a balanced 1:1 only five years ago.

And it's not just high schools that are seeing a rise in academically outstanding female students. The Chu Coching Scholarship [*note] is the most prestigious scholarship that Zhejiang University offers, with only 12 undergraduates winning it annually. In 2011, nine of the 12 places were won by women.

The 2011 Report on Women's Development in Hangzhou, jointly released by the Hangzhou Women's Federation and the Municipal Bureau of Statistics in March, revealed that women undergraduates in Hangzhou universities numbered around 446,700, accounting for 50.3% of the total. It is the first time that female students have outnumbered male students.

A National Situation

In 2009, full-time female students in Hangzhou universities only accounted for 47%. The figure rose to 49% in 2010 and has been increasing annually.

The situation is the same in the adult colleges in Hangzhou. In 2011, women students in adult colleges numbered 60,100, accounting for 53.5% of the total.

However, the postgraduate fields in Hangzhou are still predominantly male. In 2011, the number of female postgraduate students in Hangzhou universities was 18,200, accounting for 43.6%.

National statistics indicate that it is not just Hangzhou that is experiencing this phenomenon. Recent news highlighted the fact that the men to women student ratio in certain universities in south China's Guangdong Province was now 1:2.2, in comparison with the 1:1 ratio of a decade ago.

As the proportion of women students rises from year to year, many colleges and universities have taken extra measures such as converting male restrooms into female restrooms.

The Educational Testing Institute statistics of Zhejiang Province also show that in 2010, amongst the 255,200 Zhejiang students who enrolled in colleges after taking the college entrance exam, 52.2% were women. In 2009, 51.16 % of the total 267,000 students were women.

In other areas of China such as Shaanxi Province, and cities like Chongqing and Beijing, women college students have also surpassed their male peers.

Women's Dominance

While it may seem like a new phenomenon, in truth, the sex ratio in different colleges and majors can vary greatly. While Zhejiang University is seeing an increase in female students, Hangzhou Normal University has always been a women's world.

In terms of different university majors, some have theorized that the ratio is caused by innate differences in strengths. For liberal arts majors that require a lot of memorizing, such as accounting and languages, women students definitely dominate. However, science and engineering majors tend to see higher male enrollment, possibly due to their preference for using logic and reasoning abilities.

Zhejiang University has long been famous for science and engineering. Last year, women undergraduates in Zhejiang University only accounted for 38% of the total 22,000 students.

But in Hangzhou Normal University, women undergraduates have been accounting for 60% of the student body for years. Amongst the current 13,000 students, women number a majority of 8,000.

At present, there are only 400 women students amongst the total of 2,200 science and engineering freshman students in Zhejiang University. And only 31 women senior students of the total 211 students majored in civil engineering. However, women show a clear preference for language majors. In the Chinese language major, women students account for 50 of the total 62 students. And of the 70 English major students, 56 are women. Even more extreme is the Russian major, where the male count is a flat zero.

In 2009, (website of the United Chinese Alumni Associations) did a Survey Report on China's Gaokao (national college entrance exam) Champions from 1977 to 2008. According to the report, male student high achievers for the exam accounted for 64% of the total from 1977 to 1998. But from 1999 to 2008, the number dropped to 52.64%. Between 1999 and 2008, the proportion of women gaokao champions nearly doubled.

System Benefits Women

Fu Liqun, director of the Institute of Sociology at the Hangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said that experts in the current education sector are of the opinion that China's examination-oriented education system is more suited towards women.

"The national college entrance exam in particular is more suited to female strengths. Girls usually mature earlier than boys and show a clear preference for doing things according to a prescribed order, giving them the edge when it comes to an exam-oriented system," she said. "Boys tend to be more open and creative in their thinking, making them more easily distracted from academics."

However, she believes that the increase in female college students will have little impact on society as the overall sex ratio is generally balanced. "The only impact will be the sex ratio imbalance at the workplace as men and women tend to gravitate towards different professions," she said.

Last year's Report on Hangzhou Women's Development proved her right. According to statistics, women accounted for more than 40% of the total workforce in Hangzhou. Women employed in industries like hospitality and catering (56%), financial sector (53.0%), education (53.5%), and health, social security and social welfare (61.9%) accounted for more than half of the total employees. But women only accounted for 31.1% and 24.2% of employees in enterprises and government organizations.

Nevertheless, the increase in China's female college students signals an undeniably positive next stage in the development of the country's female population.


Chu Coching or Zhu Kezhen (March 7, 1890–February 7, 1974) was a prominent Chinese meteorologist, geologist and educator.

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