Higher Education

, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 585–597 | Cite as

Gender and the 2003 Quality Reform in higher education in Norway



The Bologna Process in Europe aims to develop a coherent and compatible European higher educational system. In Norway, the Quality Reform in 2003 was the first step on implementing the Bologna Process. Internal quality assurance systems have produced several publications on internal indicators, such as student progress and teaching staff work loads, of the Quality Reform. To our knowledge, possible gender differences of these changes have yet to be evaluated. We therefore analyzed data on grades from the University of Oslo before and after the Quality Reform with regard to gender differences. Data on examinations from 1990 to spring 2007 (495,334 examinations) were analyzed using relative percentage graphs. The results show that female students have benefited more than males from the change of system: for several disciplines, male average grades were better than female average grades before the change, and female average grade were better than male average grades after the change. Male students show greater intrasex variability both before and after the introduction of the Quality Reform.


Gender differences Intrasex variability The Quality Reform Relative percentage graphs University grades University of Oslo 



Standard deviation


European course credit transfer system






Undergraduate level (Bachelor)


Graduate level (Master)


The faculty of mathematics and natural sciences



The authors gratefully acknowledge the use of data acquired from LIST ved Studieseksjonen, University of Oslo, Norway. The technical assistance with computer programming by Knut Petter Lehre (University of Oslo, Norway) is greatly appreciated.


  1. Aamodt, P. O. (2007). Kvalitetsreformen under lupen. Uniped Tidsskrift for universitets-og høyskolepedagogikk, 30(3), 4–14.Google Scholar
  2. Allegre, C., Berlinguer, L., Blackstone, T., Ruttgers, J. (1998). Sorbonne joint declaration: Joint declaration on harmonisation of the architecture of the European higher education system. 1–3. Retrieved July 25, 2007 from http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/Sorbonne_declaration.pdf.
  3. Anderson, J. R., Lennox, B., & Low, A. (1964). Medical students’ performance: An analysis of selection procedures and examination marks in Glasgow. Lancet, 283(7324), 96–100. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(64)91413-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arden, R., & Plomin, R. (2006). Sex differences in variance of intelligence across childhood. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 39–48. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.11.027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benbow, C. P., & Stanley, J. C. (1980). Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability: More facts. Science, 210(4475), 1262–1264. doi: 10.1126/science.7434028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benbow, C. P., & Stanley, J. C. (1983). Sex differences in mathematical ability: Fact or artifact? Science, 222(4627), 1029–1031. doi: 10.1126/science.6648516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Børing, P. (2004). Studiegjennomføring og studiefrafall på høyskolene. NIFU skriftsserie 15. Oslo: NIFU.Google Scholar
  8. Bostad, I., Strand, L.J., Myhre, A., Handal, G., Kjeldstadli, K., Mollestad, K. (2007). Underveis (UiOs interne evaluering av kvalitetsreformen) 1–96. Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.admin.uio.no/prosjekter/kvalitetsreformen/evaluering/rapport_evaluering_kvalitetsreformen_2007.pdf.
  9. Bourke, T. (2005). Guide to the Bologna Process: The UK HE Europe Unit, 1–40. Retrieved June 26, 2007 from http://www.europeunit.ac.uk/resources/Guide%20to%20the%20Bologna%20Process.pdf.
  10. Clemet, C. (2004). The Bologna Process from a Norwegian Perspective—towards a European Higher Education Area, 1–14. Retrieved December 16, 2007 from http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/Norway/04101Fact_Sheet_Bologna-Process.pdf.
  11. Deary, I. J., Thorpe, G., Wilson, V., Starr, J. M., & Whalley, L. J. (2003). Population sex differences in IQ at the age 11: The Scottish mental survey 1932. Intelligence, 31, 533–542. doi: 10.1016/S0160-2896(03)00053-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Self-discipline gives girls the edge: Gender in self-discipline, grades, and achievement test scores. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 198–208. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dysthe, O. (2007). Pedagogiske endringar etter Kvalitetsreforma og konsekvensar for laering. Utfordringar og strategiar vidare. Uniped, 30(3), 29–44.Google Scholar
  14. Feingold, A. (1992). Sex differences in variability in intellectual abilities: A new look at an old controversy. Review of Educational Research, 62(1), 61–84.Google Scholar
  15. Geary, D. C. (1998). Male and Female. The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. USA: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Giota, J. (2002). Adolescents’ goal orientations and academic achievement: Long-term relations and gender differences. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 46(3), 349–371. doi: 10.1080/0031383022000024552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gneezy, U., Niederle, M., Rustichini, A. (2003). Performance in competitive environments: gender differences. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, (August), 1049–1074. doi: 10.1162/00335530360698496.
  18. Graham, R. B. (1999). Unannounced quizzes raise test scores selectively for mid-range students. Teaching of Psychology (Columbia, Mo.), 26(4), 271–273. doi: 10.1207/S15328023TOP260406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Halpern, D. F. (1997). Sex differences in intelligence: Implications for education. The American Psychologist, 52(10), 1091–1102. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.52.10.1091.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanestad, B.R. (2006). Lupen, 1–42. Retrieved June 4, 2007 from http://www.uib.no/ua/studiekvalitet/kvalitetssikring/lupen-sluttrapport.pdf.
  21. Hedges, L. V., & Nowell, A. (1995). Sex differences in mental test scores, variability, and numbers of high-scoring individuals. Science, 269(5220), 41–45. doi: 10.1126/science.7604277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hovdhaugen, E., Aamodt, P.O. (2006). Evaluering av kvalitetsreformen. Delrapport 3: Studiefrafall og studiestabilitet. 1–96. Retrieved October 10, 2008 from http://www.nifustep.no/norsk/publikasjoner/studiefrafall_og_studiestabilitet.
  23. Kimball, M. M. (1989). A new perspective on women’s math achievement. Psychological Bulletin, 105(2), 198–214. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.105.2.198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kunnskapsdepartementet (2007) Bologna-prosessen, 1–4. Retrieved June 26, 2007 from http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/KD/Vedlegg/UH/Bologna/Faktaark_Bologna1.pdf.
  25. Lehre, A.C., Lehre, K.P., Laake, P., Danbolt, N.C. (2009). Greater intrasex variability in males than in females is a fundamental aspect of gender differences in humans. Developmental Psychobiology. doi: 10.1002/dev.20358.
  26. Lupart, J. L., Cannon, E., & Telfer, J. A. (2004). Gender differences in adolescent academic achievement, interests, values and life-role expectations. High Ability Studies, 15(1), 25–42. doi: 10.1080/1359813042000225320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Masson, A. M., Cadot, M., & Ansseau, M. (2003). Failure effects and gender differences in perfectionism. L’Encephale, 29(2), 125–135. (abstract).Google Scholar
  28. Masson, A. M., Hoyois, P., Cadot, M., Nahama, V., Petit, F., & Ansseau, M. (2004). Girls are more successful than boys at university. Gender group differences in models integrating motivational and aggressive components correlated with test-anxiety. L’Encephale, 30((1), 1–15. doi: 10.1016/S0013-7006(04)95410-3. (abstract).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mastekaasa, A., & Smeby, J. C. (2008). Educational choice and persistence in male- and female-dominated fields. Higher Education, 55(2), 189–202. doi: 10.1007/s10734-006-9042-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mau, W., & Lynn, R. (2001). Gender differences on the scholastic aptitude test, the american college test and college grades. Educational Psychology, 21(2), 133–136. doi: 10.1080/01443410020043832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McDonough, C. M., Horgan, A., Codd, M. B., & Casey, P. R. (2000). Gender differences in the results of the final medical examination at University College Dublin. Medical Education, 34, 30–34. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2000.00456.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mellanby, J., Martin, M., & O’Doherty, J. (2000). The ‘gender gap’ in final examination results at Oxford University. The British Journal of Psychology, 91, 377–390. doi: 10.1348/000712600161880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Michelsen, S., Aamodt, P.O. (2006). Kvalitetsreformen moeter virkeligheten (Delrapport 1), 1-162. Retrieved July 25, 2007 from http://nifustep.no/norsk/publikasjoner/kvalitetsreformen_moeter_virkeligheten.
  34. Myers, C. B., & Myers, S. M. (2007). Assessing assessment: The effects of two exam formats on course achievement and evaluation. Innovative Higher Education, 31(4), 227–236. doi: 10.1007/s10755-006-9020-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nowell, A., & Hedges, L. V. (1998). Trends in gender differences in academic achievement from 1960 to 1994: An analysis of differences in mean, variance, and extreme scores. Sex Roles, 39, 21–43. doi: 10.1023/A:1018873615316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roberts, T. A. (1991). Gender and the influence of evaluations on self-assessments in achievement settings. Psychological Bulletin, 109(2), 297–308. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.109.2.297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Simon, A., & Thomas, A. (1983). Test data for the state-trait anxiety inventory for British further education, certificate of education and B.Ed. students. Personality and Individual Differences, 4((2), 199–200. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(83)90020-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Slotte, V., Lonka, K., & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (2001). Study-strategy use in learning from text. Does gender make any difference? Instructional Science, 29(3), 255–272. doi: 10.1023/A:1017574300304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, J., & Nylor, R. (2001). Determinants of degree performance in UK universities: A statistical analysis of the 1993 student cohort. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 63, 29–60. doi: 10.1111/1468-0084.00208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. (1998). Gender Gaps. Where schools still fail our children. 1-28. Retrieved August 12, 2007 from http://www.aauw.org/research/upload/GGES.pdf.
  41. The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999, 1–6. Retrieved July 25, 2007 from http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/bologna_declaration.pdf.
  42. Tuckman, B. W. (1996). The relative effectiveness of incentive motivation and presubscribed learning strategies in improving college students’ course performance. Journal of Experimental Education, 64, 197–210.Google Scholar
  43. Tuckman, B. W. (1998). Using tests as an incentive to motivate procrastinators to study. Journal of Experimental Education, 66(2), 141–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilberg, S., & Lynn, R. (1999). Sex differences in historical knowledge and school grades: A 26 nation study. Personality and Individual Differences, 27(6), 1221–1229. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00066-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Willingham, D. T. (2002). Allocating student time: “Massed” versus “distributed” practice. American Educator, 26(2), 37–39.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne-Catherine Lehre
    • 1
  • Arvid Hansen
    • 2
  • Petter Laake
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, Department of Anatomy, Institute of Basic Medical SciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.USITUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical SciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations