Michelle Doyle Wildman


And for the first time, the number of girls taking A level Politics exceeds the boys too!


A-level results day always attracts lots of media attention. Amid all the analysis and stories of personal triumph and challenge, there was some good news for the future of Political Studies too. 

Some 20,405 students chose to take A-level Politics or Government & Politics – far more than ever before. We know that the overall trend is that girls generally outperform boys at A-level and across a number of subjects, but - as demonstrated in this useful graph produced by the Press Association - the number of girls taking A-level exceeded the number of boys for the first time. 

We know that this is a brilliant A-level to take but what could be behind these changes? I asked two of the PSA’s trustees who know this landscape well, Professor John Craig and Dr James Weinberg, for their thoughts. John suggested this may reflect a range of factors including the A-levels offered at different schools and student’s subject choices. It’s quite difficult to get accurate data on this but our ‘back of the envelope’ calculation would be that this number of students equates to around 20% of all school and colleague settings. So, although this is higher than our last read in 2018, it’s fair to say we still have some way to go to see students of all backgrounds and right across the England, Wales and Northern Ireland having the opportunity to study Politics at A-level. What more can we and others do to increase Politics teaching and learning at KS5? It would be interesting to bring the Scottish Highers’ Modern Studies results into the picture and get a conversation going!

This also prompts the question as to whether the increase in the interest in Politics A-level reflects an interest in Politics and citizenship more generally? James thinks this could be a factor. He added: “young women are perhaps becoming more involved in politics and hence more likely to study politics as the number of elected women in UK politics (and visible positions of power in particular) increases too. Also, the broadening of the syllabus to compass a wider range of political ideas at A-level (which happened a few years back and informed by the PSA) may have also broadened its appeal”. I would love to hear from our PSA teacher and student members for their take on this.

Although taking politics A-level doesn’t necessarily mean a pathway into undergraduate political studies, it’s an interesting litmus test. We don’t yet have UCAS data on the 2022 intake, but the trend over recent years is that Politics and IR degrees remain very popular with slightly more women than men taking up places at over 100 UK institutions.

The PSA has stressed the importance of offering opportunities to study politics right across the country. John remarked: “University Politics departments have been working hard in recent years to address issues of unequal access and ensure that the courses offered reflect the breadth and diversity of human experience. Politics is a subject for everyone, and we welcome students from all sections of the community'. I dearly hope we can play our part in making this a reality. 



If you are teaching or studying Politics at school or college or have begun studying for a degree or masters, why not join the PSA – the UK’s largest network of political students and scientists. Find our more on how to join and what resources and opportunities are on offer here.


Michelle Doyle Wildman is the Chief Executive of the Political Studies Association