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Gender attack on universities

SCOTTISH universities have been accused of Victorian values on gender equality after new figures showed their governing bodies are dominated by men.

The attack comes after analysis of the make-up of university ruling Courts shows just 25% of members are female – despite the fact women academics make up more than half the workforce.

The figures for 2011/12, compiled by student body NUS Scotland, also show that none of the current chairs of university Courts are women.

Last week, the group that represents Court chairs was challenged over its diversity by MSPs at the Scottish Parliament's education committee, with Labour MSP Neil Findlay suggesting they appeared to be "like an old boys' network".

The education committee will today take evidence from Education Secretary Michael Russell on his Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill.

One aspect of the Bill is to put in place a new code of conduct for universities in a bid to improve governance.

As part of this, it has been proposed that each governing body should be required to ensure at least 40% of its membership is female, as is the case in Ireland under the 1997 Irish Universities Act. Stacey Devine, NUS Scotland women's officer, said: "It's unacceptable that last year there were three Lords and two Sirs, but no women serving as chairs of university governing bodies.

"This gender inequality is right out of Victorian times and certainly shouldn't be tolerated in the 21st century by world-class Scottish universities serving diverse communities.

"Universities should be at the forefront of creating a fairer, more equal society that is representative of Scottish society, yet almost 75% of board members are men, despite women making up a majority of our campus populations."

However, Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said the issue of gender balance was one that wider society had to tackle – including NUS Scotland and the Scottish Parliament.

Alastair Sim, the body's director, said: "All university governing bodies have staff and student representatives who are elected by their peers and whose gender diversity reflects their electorates' choices about who is the best individual for the role.

"Whilst all university chairs happen to be men at the moment, many universities have an equal gender balance amongst their co-opted members.

"The issue of redressing gender representation is a societal one which goes far beyond the gates of our universities.

"Only 28% of constituency MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament are women, while female representation in Westminster is at 22%.

"This is also an issue that NUS Scotland has had to deal with, as only one-quarter of its presidents since 1971 have been women."

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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