Women accounted for a record 45.5 percent of students enrolled in university courses in Japan as of May 1, the provisional results of a recent government study showed Tuesday.

The annual education ministry survey showed the number of students had increased by 14,752 from a year earlier to 2.62 million, marking an all-time high for the sixth year in a row.

Female university students totaled a record 1.19 million, maintaining a rising trend since 1981.

"The need for higher education has increased among both men and women," an official at the education ministry said.

But those in the "others" category, including working adults who were nonregular students, fell by 16,350 to 32,996.

The drop was likely due to universities suspending classes and downsizing their acceptance of such students due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The response deadline for the study, which surveys educational institutions and enrolled students, was extended by around a month this year due to the pandemic.

Only a portion of the data has been released so far, with additional information, such as the rates of university enrollment and employment following graduation, to become available around December.

Meanwhile, the number of elementary school students stood at 6.31 million, and those in junior high school at 3.21 million, both the lowest on record amid a declining birth rate.

The number of high school students fell by 76,018 to 3.09 million. But students attending high school through distance learning increased to 206,994, topping 200,000 for the first time. The growth highlights demand for diversified ways of learning that are not reliant on physical attendance, the education ministry said.