Female recognition

June 13, 1997

Sian Griffiths has misunderstood how Oxford University's recent professorial distinctions exercise operated ("Oxford women profs penalised", THES, June 6). The result is a story which is both misleading and which actually seems to imply that Oxford has been - illegally - discriminating against female professors.

Last year, as you reported, the university established a new procedure, to take place annually, for the conferment of the title of professor or reader on those who chose to have their case considered and who were assessed by a committee established for the purpose to be worthy of such a title. It was made perfectly clear that the conferment of the title involved neither a change of duties nor a change of salary. Men and women have an equal opportunity to apply. Proportionately a significant number of women applied, and were successful.

Meanwhile, of course, both men and women professors holding substantive chairs are rewarded on the same basis within the university pay scales. The confusion in your article stems from its misplaced discussion of the "creation" of chairs and from the failure to distinguish between substantive and titular professors.

Both from this new procedure and in the appointment to substantive chairs, the university continues to strive to ensure that the distinction of female academics is properly recognised.

Peter North, Vice chancellor

University of Oxford

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