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Robbins Report 50 years on: Feminist Responses University of Sussex December 2nd, 2013 HE & SHE: Gender & Equality in Higher Education Miriam E. David,

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Presentation on theme: "Robbins Report 50 years on: Feminist Responses University of Sussex December 2nd, 2013 HE & SHE: Gender & Equality in Higher Education Miriam E. David,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Robbins Report 50 years on: Feminist Responses University of Sussex December 2nd, 2013 HE & SHE: Gender & Equality in Higher Education Miriam E. David, Professor Emerita of Education, Institute of Education, University of London Visiting Professor, CHEER, University of Sussex 1

2 Passionate moral commitment as feminist academic activist to social or women’s equality and gender justice Feminist theories, reflexive methodologies, gender & equality Reflect on the Robbins report on HE (1963) and its contexts Undergraduate in expansionary times to feminist academic: University pioneers or passionate pedagogues? Gender equality neo-liberal students numbers game SHE Figures (EU) and ECU (UK) show how limited for academics Need to transform the rules of the game of HE A feminist manifesto for university and education? HE & SHE: Gender and equality in higher education: summary 2

3 My Feminist Reflections on being a student in HE (1) 1963 – year I went to university as an undergraduate Feminism not on my (or others) radar so reconstruction and as both a witness and participant in the changes Developments in the social sciences and studied sociology Changing discourses about equality and women and gender Contrast Minister for Universities & Science David Willetts’ (2013) Robbins Revisited Bigger and Better Higher Education Social Market Foundation – describes changing gender balance of students – a conservative gloss 3

4 Changing socio-economic contexts UK Conservative government in 1961 appointed Robbins – an eminent economist and professor at LSE - to chair committee Bipartisan political consensus of social democracy around social welfare/welfare state and family and women in it Importance of economic growth for UK economy and education and higher education seen to contribute Importance of educational and employment opportunities for social mobility but limited participation of women Only 25% of students female – circa 68,000 out of 216,000 – at all higher education institutions (Willetts, p.26) 4

5 Robbins’s recommendations (1): HE & economic growth UGC had created new universities in eg Sussex, Essex Report published October 2013, & immediately accepted Robbins principle for economic growth: university places ‘should be available to all.. qualified by ability & attainment’. Eligibility defined as 2 examination passes at GCE A level. Commitment of public funds to expand into a ‘system’ – technical and training colleges in LEAs and universities Transform colleges of advanced technology (CATS) to universities eg Aston, Bath, Strathclyde 5

6 Robbins’s recommendations: Robbins & ME Recommendations accepted - CATS to become universities... In October 1963, I went up to Glasgow College of Advanced Technology (to study social sciences) – few women teachers By May 1964, it had become Strathclyde University A fellow student Sandy Macmillan (son of Maurice and grandson of Harold who had recently been Prime Minister) Quintin Hogg (Lord Hailsham) came to open the renamed university in May (had become SofS for Education 1 April 1964 and met him through Sandy!) 6

7 Women and HE – figures from Robbins (1) So I was one of a rare breed…had a means tested grant from LEA (West Riding of Yorkshire) - Many of my school-friends went to Teacher Training College which were not always counted as HE and one to Oxford Neither were social work or nursing and para-medical professions such as physiotherapy but neither was Law... Undergraduate students in HE (full-time and part-time) in the UK (thousands) in (year before I went up) 216,000 Robbins Report. 1963, p.16. Table 5, “Percentage of the age group entering higher education, Great Britain, 1962 ”. 7

8 Women & HE from Robbins (& Willetts’ reconstruction) (2) From Table 3.1 full-time university students by sex (male:female) and faculty/subjects and In All faculties 75:25 Humanities 58:42 and 32% of all Social Studies 77:23 and 11% of all In All faculties 46:54 Humanities 38:62 and 10% of all Social Studies 43:57 and 32% of all 8

9 Robbins report’s recommendations (3): HE & SHE or HE ‘In particular, where women are concerned, the effect might well be either that British parents would be strengthened in their age-long disinclination to consider their daughters to be as deserving of higher education as their sons, or that the eligibility for marriage of the more educated would be diminished by the addition to their charms of what would be in effect a negative dowry. (my emphasis) (Robbins report, 1963, Cmnd 2154, paragraph 646). 9

10 How to finance the system: grants or loans On balance we do not recommend immediate recourse to a system of financing students by loans. At a time when many parents are only just beginning to acquire the habit of contemplating higher education for such of their children, especially girls, as are capable of benefiting by it, we think it probable that it would have undesirable disincentive effects. But if, as time goes on, the habit is more firmly established, the arguments of justice in distribution and of the advantage of increasing individual responsibility may come to weigh more heavily and lead to some experiment in this direction (my emphasis) (ibid, chapter 14). 10

11 Robbins report’s recommendations (2): HE & SHE (women) Parents were expected to support their daughters on marriage, and women were still expected to withdraw from the labour market on either marriage or motherhood. Robbins argued against implementing of student loans as to the potential impact that they would have on parental decision-making about their daughters. Willetts argues ‘eventually after over 40 years, we have ended up with a financing model very close to the one Robbins really preferred – loans repayable as a percentage of future earnings’ (2013, p.70) 11

12 Women as undergraduates 50 years later 21 st century...massive growth? Undergraduate students in higher education (full-time and part-time), by gender, in the UK (thousands) Academic year Men Women Total * (quarter million) , ,092 1,912 (2 million) Sources: Department for Education (DfE) and Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Statistical First Release, “Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR)” and *Robbins Report. 1963, p.16. Table 5, “Percentage of the age group entering higher education, Great Britain, 1962” 12

13 Internationally women now a majority of students? Similarly EU She figures show that the proportion of female (55%) and graduates (59%) exceeds that of male students. The Chronicle of Higher Education, the magazine for academe in the USA in a special issue on ‘Diversity in Academe: The Gender Issue’ (November 2, 2012). …It’s well known, for example, that female undergraduates outnumber their male counterparts…the undergraduate gender gap is especially striking among black students…women are advancing in the professoriate as well…(Carolyn Mooney, senior editor, special sections, B3, 2012). 13

14 The Contested Evidence or Research on Global Equalities in Education Has gender equality as a concept been taken over and incorporated into global and neo-liberal politics? Gender equality is now firmly on the international agenda: a result of feminist or women’s campaigning for educational change or neo-liberal take-over? In March 2012, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) published its World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education for the first time ever. (http://tinyurl.com/crqys2y).http://tinyurl.com/crqys2y 14

15 Overall pattern is clear: increasing educational enrolments.. ‘… enormous growth in educational opportunities and literacy levels throughout the world over the last four decades… the capacity of the world’s educational systems more than doubled – from 647 million students in 1970 to 1,397 million in Enrolments increased from 418 to 702 million pupils at the primary level, from 196 to 531 million at the secondary level, and from 33 to 164 million in higher education… (Atlas, 2012, p9) – A fivefold increase in global higher education 15

16 Expansion of HE worldwide: women the principal beneficiaries in all regions? Opportunities & Obstacles Female enrolment at the tertiary level has grown almost twice as fast as that of men over last four decades for reasons that include social mobility, enhanced income potential, international pressure to narrow the gender gap. Access to higher education by women has not always translated into enhanced career opportunities, including the opportunity to use their doctorates in the field of research.’ (2012, p. 75) 16

17 Transformations in the language of feminism, gender, equality and the law The mission statement of UK Equality Challenge Unit (2013): ‘ECU works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in HE and seeks to ensure that staff and students are not unfairly excluded, marginalised or disadvantaged because of age, disability, gender identity, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity status, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or through any combination of these characteristics or other unfair treatment.’ 17

18 Transformations in the language of feminism, gender and equality (2) This report presents an equality-focused analysis of … staff and students during the 2009/10 academic year, plus a year-on- year comparison showing the progress of equality across the sector over the last five years. For the first time the report looks at the interplay of multiple identities (e.g. female black staff, male disabled students)…the report provides a useful benchmark for institutions to compare their local statistics. New legal requirements across England, Scotland and Wales mean that HE institutions need to set equality objectives or outcomes. The figures in this report…will provide an evidence base that will inform these objectives.’ 18

19 Rampant gender inequalities in UK academe ECU’s picture for students is that gender is a minor issue for student attainment and progression, across a range of subjects and disciplines. The ECU’s report Equality in higher education part 1: staff (December 2011) paints a picture of rampant gender inequalities. The cover has the caption: 16.3% median gender pay gap and 20.3% mean gender pay gap. ‘The statistic on the front cover shows the median and mean pay gaps between male and female staff working in higher education across the UK (figure 1.28)’. 19

20 Rampant gender inequalities in HE: The UK academic labour market It is fascinating that two reports on Equality in HE by the ECU in the UK can be written and published together without any overarching comment about the dissonance between the two in terms of gender equity. It is abundantly clear that despite the huge increases in educational opportunities up to postgraduate research where women have been sufficiently ambitious to attain as much if not more than men, that they remain subordinate across all sectors of academic employment. 20

21 ECU’s headlines for Staff in HE Overall in 2009/10, 53.8% of all staff were women. Female staff made up 46.8% of full-time staff and 67.1% of part- time staff. A higher proportion of staff in professorial roles were male (80.9%) than female (19.1%)… The mean salary of female staff was £31,116 compared with £39,021 for male staff, an overall mean pay gap of 20.3%. 76.1% of UK national staff in professorial roles and 67.4% of non-UK national staff in professorial roles were white males. (my emphases) 21

22 Gender equality now part of the neo-liberal project? European policies are strongly in favour of gender equality for economic competition and business innovation. At a recent gender summit about research in Europe Mr Robert-Jan Smits, EC Director General for Research and Innovation: ‘The promotion of gender equality is part of the European Commission's strategic approach in the field of research and innovation. It contributes to the enhancement of European competitiveness and the full realisation of European innovation potential.’ (2011, p.?)(my emphasis) 22

23 She Figures in Academia? She Figures 2009 published by the EC: in the preface Janez Potočnik, a Slovenian politician who serves as European Commissioner for Science and Research, stated ‘while there are equivalent numbers of women and men working in the field of Humanities, only 27% of researchers in Engineering and Technology are female. And what about researchers’ career progression? Women account for 59% of graduates, whereas men account for 82% of full professors. Do you find that hard to believe? Check out chapter 3.’ (my emphasis) 23

24 A feminist manifesto for university and education Prospects for gender equity in education/academe uncertain Need to break the vicious cycle of male dominance in politics and leadership of global academe (Morley, 2013) & society Passionate commitment to feminist networking as form of resilience and resistance to austerity culture and encroachment of academic capitalism and market forces Gender equality is more than misogynistic numbers game Create fairer education for all boys & girls to deal with misogyny, everyday sexism, sexual abuse and harassment 24


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