New end to old story?

January 31, 2003

Bias against women in higher education is not new ("Bias cheats women out of places", THES , January 17). In the early 1970s, The Open University discovered that, despite its first-come, first-served policy, women were less likely to be offered a place. This was because the government forced us to take a higher proportion of maths, science and technology applicants.

We tinkered with the individual's date of application. A few days were added to a man's application date (and to those of graduates) and "justice" was achieved. However, we were then taken to the Equal Opportunities Commission by a man who successfully made the case that the OU was biased against men. At this point, all types of social engineering were abandoned.

Recently, demand for places has equalled supply so there is little student selection at the OU. The percentage of women is slightly over half and, due to their better progress, the percentage of women graduates is even higher.

Alan Woodley
The Open University

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