The gulf between the numbers of young men and women going to university has reached a record level, with tens of thousands of men "missing" from higher education, official figures show.
Young female students are now more than a third more likely to start a degree course than their male counterparts, while those from poorer backgrounds are more than 50 per cent more likely to enter university.
Women aged 18 are now 35 per cent more likely to go to university than men, which amounts to 36,000 fewer men starting degree courses than if the entry rates were equal.
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of the admissions service Ucas, which released the figures today, said: "We have previously highlighted the unacceptably large and widening gap between entry rates for men and women and this year shows young men, and especially young white men, falling even further behind."
Overall, the numbers of people going into higher education this year reached a new high, with universities making record numbers of offers.
A total of 532,300 students secured places at UK universities this autumn, up 3.1 per cent – about 16,100 people – on last year. Some 384,100 applicants got their first choice of course.
Meanwhile, social mobility charity the Sutton Trust warned today that there is a "severe lack of evidence" about what works best in encouraging disadvantaged young people to study for a degree.
Figures suggest that the numbers of disadvantaged young people going into higher education have risen in the last decade. But the most selective institutions are still dominated by youngsters from richer backgrounds, a research briefing paper by the social mobility charity says.
In total, English universities spent £124 million on "outreach" work this year - schemes designed to encourage poorer youngsters to go to university.
But there is too little robust evidence available to tell them which methods are the most effective, the briefing warns.
"There is strong evidence that outreach activities, in general, do succeed in attracting and admitting students from non-privileged backgrounds, but there is not enough evidence indicating which particular initiatives work," it says.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "Universities are under considerable pressure to get more disadvantaged young people into higher education but there is a severe lack of evidence about the factors that make some approaches work better than others. With the access gap at our most selective universities still far too wide, we need to get a much clearer picture of what works best."
Universities should spend at least 10 per cent of their "outreach" budgets on evaluating their schemes, the research briefing suggests.