In 2011, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University recommended that each of the governing bodies at university level should have a minimum of 40% female membership. This goal was reiterated by recently replaced Education secretary Michael Russell at the start of November this year, who stated that he wanted to achieve 40% female membership on higher education boards, as part of a wider debate concerning reforms to the Scottish university structure.
Women at the University of Glasgow make up 35% of the University Court. The most recent appointment to the University Court, to fill three vacant Court Assessors seats, was made on the 20th of November. All those appointed on that date were male. The University of Edinburgh is the only other ancient university in Scotland that has filled 40% of its court seats with women. It is notable however that compared to the University of Glasgow they have fewer positions available. Meanwhile, St Andrews have just over 28% of their University Court seats filled by women, and the University of Aberdeen has 27%.
These low levels of representation are echoed south of the border, where, despite lacking a University Court structure, there are comparable governing institutions. The Glasgow Guardian found older universities such as Oxford and Cambridge struggled to ensure female representation on their boards. Women at the University of Oxford made up just 30% of its governing body, while Cambridge had only 22%. The University of Manchester on the other hand had 50% representation of both male and female members on its governing body.
These findings by the Glasgow Guardian come after the release of a study by the Equality and Challenge Unit (ECU) conducted between 2012-2013 which found that white males were more likely to get the “best paid jobs in universities”. The study suggested that 78.3% of professors are men while only 4% of black academic staff are professors. It also found that women were more likely to work part time as either support staff or at a lower academic level, and men were three times more likely to be in a senior level role than women.
David Newall, secretary of Court told the Glasgow Guardian:
“The proposal for elected chairs is set out in a consultation document recently issued by the Scottish Government. The University is still to consider its response, which is due by 30 January. One possible interpretation of the Government’s consultation paper is that it would like all universities in Scotland to follow the lead of the older universities (including Glasgow) in having an elected Rector.
We are very much in favour of increased representation of women at Court and indeed for all senior positions, both academically and in support services. Whilst recognizing that more needs to be done, we do actively engage in supporting women to apply for senior posts and in providing training and other opportunities Currently, 36% of Court members are women. To date, the University has not set a specific target for the proportion of either gender, but in the coming months it will review its policy in this area, in the light of the Government’s consultation paper, and of a project on Scottish university governance that is currently being undertaken by the Equality Challenge Unit.”