MEN are going to college like never before.
For the first time in decades -- and with third-level student numbers at an all-time high -- the percentage of the college population that is male is growing.
They are not all aiming for degrees -- men are also grasping other educational opportunities to boost their chances of getting a 21st century job.
Latest figures on the gender breakdown of third-level students show men are starting to close the gap with women.
For years, females outnumbered males in universities by 59pc to 41pc -- and across the higher-education sector generally, by 55pc to 45pc.
But according to Higher Education Authority (HEA) figures, males now account for 43pc of students in universities, and 48pc of students across the higher education sector.
HEA chief executive Tom Boland said the increased participation of young men was a very positive development.
"The figures indicate that the economic downturn has acted as a disincentive for young males to leave education early."
He said that while, in the short term, even graduates would have difficulty in finding work, those with a qualification were more likely to do so.
In the medium to longer term it was good for both young people and the country that they now availed of education opportunities, he said.
However, despite the overall increase in their participation in college, men still lag behind women in significant ways:
Meanwhile, there has been an "astounding increase" in the number of men taking community education courses.
For the first time ever, more men than women have signed up for courses at the D8CEC centre in the Dublin's Digital Hub, and the same trend is evident in centres elsewhere.
D8CEC director Maria Mulvihill said: "We have seen more and more people -- men, in particular -- coming to us. Many of these people are recently unemployed, and have spent most of their lives working in low-skilled jobs.
"What they're looking for is practical training in areas such as IT, desktop publishing, office procedures and computer applications," she said.