The gender divide could eclipse the poverty gap in applications to university within the next decade, it has been revealed.
The latest UCAS figures show that 87,000 more women than men have applied to higher education courses this year – a 7,000 increase when compared to 2013.
With 333,700 women applying in total compared against 246,300 men, it means that female students are now a third more likely to apply to higher education than their male counterparts.
At the same time, young people from the most disadvantaged areas in England are now almost twice as likely to apply as they were in 2004.
UCAS chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said that the gap between male and female applicants remained “stubborn” and that young men are becoming a “disadvantaged group” in terms of going to university.
Figures have been published after the main deadline for applications to higher education for this September passed on January 15.
In total, 580,000 people have applied to UK higher education courses this year – a four per cent increase on 2013.
This figure includes 489,940 UK students as well as 90,070 students from abroad.
UCAS says application rates for 18-year-olds across the UK are at or near their highest levels, including an “unprecedented” 35 per cent of England’s 18-year-olds who have applied.
In total, 294,610 applicants are aged 18, an increase of almost 9,500 from last year, while 118,030 are aged 19, an increase of around 3,500.
The number of applicants aged 20 to 24 has also increased from 96,280 to 100,740.
Ms Curnock Cook welcomed a growth in applications across the board.
She said: “This analysis shows a remarkably persistent growth in demand for higher education from all demographic backgrounds and for institutions across the spectrum in the UK.”
However, she warned that on current trends, the gender divide is set to continue to widen.
“Amid encouraging patterns of demand from mature and disadvantaged students, there remains a stubborn gap between male and female applicants which, on current trends, could eclipse the gap between rich and poor within a decade.
“Young men are becoming a disadvantaged group in terms of going to university and this underperformance needs urgent focus across the education sector.”
January 15 is the main application deadline for higher education, although students can still apply for courses starting in autumn 2014 up until June 30. Applications received after this date go into the Clearing process.
Recently, around 85 per cent of UK applicants, including 97 per cent of 18-year-olds, have applied by the January deadline.