Young English Muslims chase their dreams

Young Muslim women of your generation were more likely to aspire to higher education – and to end up going to university – than either Muslim men or their white Christian peers.

The research based on Next Steps suggests young Muslim women in your school year were highly motivated, and made great strides in reducing the gender gap in educational achievement.

What we asked you

When you were taking your GCSEs, we asked both you and your parents how likely it was that you would go to university. We also asked you what you thought were the most important reasons to get a degree.

As you got older, we kept track of whether you applied to university, and whether you took up your place.

A sea change for young Muslim women?

In recent decades, women in the UK have gone from being relatively unrepresented in higher education to being more likely to attend university than men. However, a gender gap has persisted in the Muslim community – until now.

At age 16, 86 per cent of Muslim girls of your generation said it was likely they would apply to university. Expectations were also high among Muslim boys, 81 per cent of whom thought they would apply. In contrast, among white Christian pupils, 65 per cent of the girls and 53 per cent of the boys thought university was in their futures.

Muslim girls were also much more likely than any other group to realise their ambitions. By age 18, 51 per cent had applied to university, and at age 20, 42 per cent were studying for a degree. White Christian young women were not far behind, with 45 per cent applying to university and 37 per cent taking up a place. Both Muslim and Christian young men were less likely than their female counterparts to continue on to higher education.

Young Muslims of your generation were just as likely as their white Christian peers to attend a prestigious Russell Group university. While young Christian men were much more likely than Christian women to attend an elite institution, young Muslim men and women’s chances were more or less equal.

Improving your employment prospects

All groups felt that the most important reason for attending university was that it would lead to a better job. However, young Muslims women were the most employment-minded.

Around 3 in 5 Muslim women felt that the most important reason to attend university is because it improves employment prospects, compared to just under half of Muslim and Christian boys and around 2 in 5 Christian girls.

Read the full paper

Accounting for British Muslim’s educational attainment: gender differences and the impact of expectations’ by Nabil Khattab and Tariq Modood was published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education in April 2017.

Please note this journal is behind a paywall. An open access version of this paper can be downloaded from the University of Bristol online repository.