SCOTTISH universities and colleges are to be given quotas for the recruitment of male and female students as part of moves to tackle long-standing gender imbalances.

Under the proposals no university or college could run a course where more than 75 per cent of students were either men or women.

The target, which will be introduced in 2030, comes after the Scottish Government highlighted the issue of gender imbalance in 2014.

The most extreme examples of male dominated subjects at university include technology, maths, computer science and engineering while much greater numbers of females opt for psychology, teacher training, social studies and nursing.

In colleges, women students dominate hairdressing and childcare while courses where most students are male include computer science, construction, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

Ironically, the proposal from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) could scupper plans announced yesterday by West College Scotland for an all-female computing course to encourage more women to consider careers in information technology.

The SFC Gender Action Plan interim report states: "Scotland's colleges and universities continue to experience significant and persistent gender bias in applications to certain subjects which are seen to be traditionally male or female.

"While we acknowledge colleges and universities cannot impact on these imbalances alone.... they must be pro-active in playing their part to address this issue.

"Such imbalances predominantly come about through the gender stereotypes that all too frequently determine subject choice. These courses are often those most closely related to particular occupations and they therefore have a significant effect on subsequent career options."

The SFC accepted there could be "tensions" in admissions procedures, but said the overall aim of greater gender balance was worth pursuing.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said institutions didn't want to see underrepresentation of any kind, but had to take account of admissions procedures.

He said: "There is a clear read-across from gender imbalanced Higher qualifications, applications to university and the gender imbalance on certain degree courses and in many cases the imbalance narrows slightly upon entry to university.

"We need to keep admissions fair for all so, if we are to redress gender imbalances, Scotland needs to put in the ground-work to shift attitudes and bring about a major change in the pattern of applications from men and women.

"It would be useful to discuss whether setting targets for universities at a national level is the most positive and realistic way to achieve a lasting societal change in attitude and behaviour amongst young people."

Emily Beever, NUS Scotland women's officer, welcomed the introduction of a national plan to address an "ingrained" lack of diversity in education.

She said: "While setting these targets will undoubtedly be a driver for change in our institutions, the issues in our lecture theatres, and the diversity of students that make those subjects up, are the result of deeper societal perceptions and stereotypes that we need to address."

Meanwhile, West College Scotland unveiled a female-only computer science course to address the under-representation of women in tech industries.

David Renton, computing curriculum quality leader at the college's Paisley campus, said: "There is a shortage of graduates to fill all the programming jobs available in the UK's computing industry, where the gender imbalance is also an issue.

"We're committed to addressing this with our new introductory course dedicated to women. It will hopefully get more girls to love computing and benefit from the large pool of job opportunities in the tech industries."