Centre's closure causes dismay

September 3, 1999

The University of Exeter has closed its centre for women's studies to the dismay of specialists across the country.

There has been widespread concern over the axing of the centre, which the university says is necessary because of its failure to attract sufficient students to cover its costs.

Gillian Hanscombe, the centre's director, whose contract ended on Monday, says the accumulated deficit stems from a requirement that that all costs be met from 80 per cent of its income, with 20 per cent top-sliced by the university.

The centre's external examiner, Marion Shaw, head of Loughborough University's department of English and drama, said: "The issue is partly money, but it is also to do with the will of the university to keep such things going, because such units tend not to be money making."

Professor Shaw said the MA course was "entirely respectable" academically, and that Dr Hanscombe ran the centre very efficiently.

Elizabeth Boa, head of Nottingham University's German department and external assessor for the centre in 1996, said: "My judgement at that time was that it was academically an excellent, innovative group of people who were working very well across various departments, with excellent leadership from Gillian Hanscombe. I recommended a bit of pump priming."

Terry Lovell, director of Warwick University's centre for the study of women and gender, said the value of small interdisciplinary units could not be measured in terms of whether or not they paid their way.

Mark Overton, Exeter's dean of postgraduate studies, said the university had found alternative departments in which the centre's PhD students could be registered, with alternative supervisors where necessary.

The university was also buying in teaching for a part-time MA student who was continuing next year.

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