Female students graduate ‘cum laude’ more often

02 May 2019

Female students at Radboud University graduate 'cum laude' more often than male students. This is revealed by statistics the university shared with Vox. The outcome is in complete contrast to earlier findings by PhD students, which showed that men are more often awarded the distinction 'cum laude'.

Women consistently gain more ‘cum laude’ results in the Bachelor’s programmes in particular than would be expected based on the male-female distribution. Last academic year, 66 percent of ‘cum laude’ graduates was female, as opposed to 59.1 percent of the total number of bachelor graduates. This picture has been constant for the last five years, with the exception of academic year 2014-2015, when male Bachelor’s students graduated ‘cum laude’ relatively more often.

The picture is less uniform in the Master’s phase. In academic year 2017-2018, women graduated ‘cum laude’ proportionately more often where male students were in the majority just a few years earlier.

The distinction ‘cum laude’ is awarded to students who graduate with an average grade of eight or higher. Individual programmes may add their own supplementary requirements, such as gaining a minimum grade of seven for each subject or taking no more than one resit. For some Master’s programmes, research Master’s programmes and PhD positions graduating ‘cum laude’ is a requirement.

Unconscious prejudice

The statistics are in stark contrast to the situation with PhD candidates. An inventory among Dutch universities by the Dutch NRC newspaper in January revealed that men graduate ‘cum laude’ more often than women. Remarkable, given that the majority of PhD candidates is female. According to some people, this is due to implicit biasunconscious prejudice towards female PhD candidates.

In January, Radboud University announced that in the future, it would make gender differences in ‘cum laude’ distinctions visible. ‘That is an important step towards addressing the occurrence of a possible implicit bias‘, spokesperson Martijn Gerritsen said at the time. ‘In addition, it is important to focus attention on unconscious prejudice. We do that in training courses, for example, and in discussions on leadership.’

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