The Gender Gap In Kosovo’s Public Universities

Open Data Kosovo
5 min readNov 9, 2020

Author: Alis Ferrea

If you are a male student on campus at the University of Prishtina, University of Gjakova, Gjilan or Mitrovica, you may be feeling somewhat outnumbered. In fact, over the last few decades, a dramatic reversal has taken place in
university campuses all over the world and data now shows that women overwhelmingly outnumber men in tertiary education in more than 100 countries.

In Kosovo, the right to education is a fundamental right that is included in the country’s Constitution as well as in the European Convention on Human Rights. However, higher education is not obligatory.

Consensus denotes that the University of Prishtina and other public universities, besides being the largest ones are also the most prominent higher education institutions in Kosovo and as such, they carry an indispensable responsibility to provide their services for the society with the maximum quality possible. While ‘skilling up’ has never lost its relevance, the changing
world of learning has at least pointed out that higher education is at a point of unprecedented uncertainty and change. In this article, we will be focusing on one of such changes and analyzing the increasing gender gap in Kosovo’s public universities.

The graphs to the right depict the bachelor’s degrees enrollment numbers for both women and men to the public universities in Kosovo. The data for the University of Prishtina starts from the year 2002 and the expansion
of this data in time reveals a significant increase in the number of university students starting from the academic year of 2009/2010.

Concurrently, the same academic year notes a beginning of a noteworthy trend, which is the number of women university students surpassing men for all of the following years. This inclination reaches a point where women form 60.6% of the total enrolled students in the University of Prishtina in the 2019/2020 academic year.

The University of Prizren became the second public university after its establishment in 2010. As it can be viewed from the second graph to the right, the trend of the women university students surpassing men is replicated in this university as well.

As an important note, the number of men in the university has decreased almost to it’s all-time low in 2019/2020 academic year.

In terms of the number of students, University of Peja is the second-largest university of Kosovo. Coincidentally, it is also the only university where the number of male university students has been higher than their female counterparts.

Women surpassing men, however, has been the most prominent in the University of Gjakova, as can be observed from the last graph above.

The disentanglement of all of the dynamics in place behind this trend requires in-depth research. However, the analysis on the global level and other local data might be able to pinpoint certain explanations for this phenomenon.

Taking a closer look at the University of Prishtina’s different faculties, we can see the gradual increase in enrollment of female students for many of the faculties listed above and eventually for faculties like Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Arts and Mathematics and Natural Sciences we can note the continuous outpacing. The subjects consistently dominated by women
include Education and Philology. On the other hand, while men continue to outnumber women on Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as Agriculture, according to the number of students enrolling each year, there is a gradual decrease for male students and a gradual increase for female students in
those faculties as well. However, the sheer number of female students means that they outnumber male students on the majority of the faculties.

So, what is at the root of this gap? An OECD research points out that differences between boys and girls start much earlier on.

According to it, boys are more likely than girls to regard school as a waste of time. They are also more likely to have fallen behind by the time they start school. Across the OECD countries, boys tend to spend over one hour less per week on homework than girls. Further, the US Education Department reports that men who do enroll in universities, at whatever age, are more likely than women to drop out, and they graduate at lower rates as well. These behavioral factors imply that the boys are less keen on applying themselves

The research on the university enrollment so far establishes a positive association between performance on standardized reading tests, overall marks and time spent doing homework with university participation. Detailed publications by Canadian Statistics Agency also underline that parental education as well as parental expectations are also positively associated with university participation, where the latter is stronger for girls.

Taking these indicators into consideration, the results of the 2018 PISA test conducted in Kosovo show that girls score similar to boys in mathematics while across the OECD countries, boys slightly outperform girls. Furthermore, girls in Kosovo outperformed boys in science with a larger difference
than the OECD average. Finally, the report indicated that girls expressed a greater fear of failure than boys.

If the performance on standardized tests can be regarded as an indicator of cognitive abilities, the analysis reported here might suggest that at least some proportion of the gender gap in university participation relates to the girls’ ability to capitalize on their cognitive abilities. Additionally, motivation
and maturity are two significant behavioural factors that might also affect the increased enrollment of women in universities. Surely, time spent on homework, higher grades and fear of failure might be considered indicators of
motivation to work hard and seek to achieve higher academic success.

Certainly, every country is unique in its circumstances and these gender differences in Bachelor’s Degrees across fields need to be further studied to answer questions such as: considering the labour market advantages why are men less likely to enter higher education given that people with bachelor’s degrees earn more, on average, than the people with high school degrees? Considering that women earn more university degrees than men, why do they make up less than 14% of the labour force and what are the exact motivations for both genders behind their higher education paths?

Understandably, institutions today have to respond to many external pressures effectively and dynamically, as well as to better understand — and better meet — the needs of the student body, as both key participant and funder of higher education. A detailed and comprehensive analysis of
Kosovo’s public universities in particular and higher education institutions, in general, will shed light on their strengths and weaknesses and will in turn help in generating specific approaches and models for themselves.