Gender balance targets set for Scottish university subjects

No more than 75 per cent of a discipline’s students should be of the same gender, says funding council

February 24, 2016
Gender balance

No more than three-quarters of the students on courses at Scottish universities should be of the same gender, the country’s funding council has ruled.

A report by the Scottish Funding Council says that subjects such as engineering continue to be male-dominated, while women continue to make up the vast majority of nursing students, but that key industries and services cannot be “restricted to the talent of half the population”.

The report introduces a target that, by 2030, no subject in Scottish higher education should have an overall gender imbalance greater than 75:25.

Later this year, all Scottish universities will be required to set out how they are tackling gender imbalances, including setting targets where possible. After that, the funding council will “plan a national ambition for the next three years” and will set out the steps it will take to achieve the target.

“Men are in demand in careers like care, nursing, teaching and social work and we want to help them get there, just as we want to help women into areas where they are highly sought after like engineering, technology and construction,” said Laurence Howells, the funding council’s chief executive.

The report says that men make up nearly 90 per cent of engineering students, and 80 per cent of students on maths, computer sciences and technology courses.

Women account for nearly 90 per cent of nursing students, and more than 80 per cent of trainee teachers.

Overall, women represent 56.9 per cent of all undergraduates at Scottish universities, and the gap with men has been on an upward trend since the early 1990s.

The report’s other main target, also to be achieved by 2030, is for the gap between male and female representation at undergraduate level to be reduced to 5 percentage points. This will form a key part of universities’ next access agreements with the funding council.

The announcements come after the funding council confirmed an overall cut of £30 million, or 3.3 per cent, from higher education budgets for 2016-17.

The universities facing the biggest cuts in teaching and research funding, of 3.9 per cent, are the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee (down £6.2 million, £2.7 million and £2.5 million respectively), plus Robert Gordon University (down £1.4 million).

Funding for the University of Glasgow is being cut by £4.9 million (3.6 per cent) while the University of St Andrews is losing £1.1 million (3.1 per cent).

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